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British Library Selects Raby Castle Artwork for Literature Project

The British Library has selected a 300-year-old work of art from Raby Castle’s private collection to illustrate its Discovering Literature project.

The painting of poet Alexander Pope holding a copy of the Iliad, which he translated, is by Sir Godfrey Kneller and dates back to 1719. It is part of the castle’s extensive art collection and hangs in the Dining Room of Raby Castle, in Staindrop near Darlington, where it is on public display.

Pope was born in London in 1688 and his famous written works include The Rape of the Lock, a mock epic poem about a woman whose lock of hair was stolen by an admirer.

Clare Owen, curator of Raby Castle, said the fact that Pope is thought to be one of the most painted people of his era makes the British Library’s selection of Raby’s portrait particularly significant.

“There are many paintings of Pope but this one is rather special, having been painted when the poet was 28 years old and at the height of his literary career,” said Clare. 

“We are very proud that it has been selected by the British Library to illustrate his profile within the Restoration section of the Discovering Literature initiative which brings to life key literary works across the centuries.”

Raby Castle is well known for its art collection and Clare said the Pope painting is part of a gallery of notable works on display in the Dining Room. They include an Amigoni portrait of Frederick Prince of Wales, son of George II and father of George III, who was a friend of the first Earl of Darlington.

“Another noteworthy piece in the same room is The Woodman by Thomas Barker of Bath, who was a landscape artist who painted in the style of Gainsborough during the late 18th and early 19th century,” said Clare.

“The Vane family art collection is extensive and includes many other important works including The Circumcision of Christ and The Adoration of the Magi, by Luca Giordano, both of which visitors to the castle can see on display on the Grand Staircase, and Interior of a Brothel by De Hooch which dates back to the 1600s,” she added.

The castle at Raby is open six days a week during July and August (closed Mondays). Private tours of the castle and its art collection will be held this autumn. Tickets can be purchased online at



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