EXHIBITIONS: PICTURE OF THE WEEK; Works of Art in Public Collections in the Midlands

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Still Life with Musical Instruments by Evaristo Baschenis (1617-1677). Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham.

Chosen by Paul Spencer-Longhurst, curator.

Although he is claimed to be the greatest painter of still life in 17th century Italy, Baschenis is little known in Britain. Very few of his paintings have ever left Italy and this painting, bought for pounds 1.2 million in 1997, is the first to enter a British public collection.

The subject made it particularly appropriate for the Barber Institute, which houses music and art under the same roof. However, Baschenis, a priest, was not only concerned to create a highly-detailed study of the musical instruments of his day, down to the fine covering of dust on the back of the lute on the right. His paintings reflect the "vanitas" tradition of still-life where objects symbolise the ultimate futility of human endeavour - even as spiritual a pursuit as music - something at which the dust itself hints.

This is one of a number of major acquisitions made by the Barber Institute since 1994. Coming soon after the joint purchase with the National Gallery of a Van Dyck for pounds 4.9 million it was turned down for a National Lottery grant. This means the gallery is still paying for it, although this did not prevent it adding a portrait by Rubens to its collection earlier this year.

The Barber Institute, in Edgbaston Park Road, is open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm; admission free. Special Open Day, June 5, 10.30am-5pm.


A thousand museums around Britain are taking part in Museums Week 1999, which runs from today until next weekend, with programmes of special events.

At Blakesley Hall in Birmingham, soon to be the site of a major National Lottery development, visitors can "Meet the Housekeeper" and find out about 17th century food today and tomorrow, while Soho House in Handsworth is staging a Treasure Trove workshop tomorrow. Tamworth Castle is rounding off its week with performances of Tudor dances next week.

Full details of events are available on the new Museums Week website at www.museumsweek.co.uk


Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 0121 303 2834:

The Science of Sport. Until Sep 12; British Painting in the 1980s. Until May 30; Through the Eyes of An Englishman. George Chinnery in India and China. Until May 16; Entwined. Contemporary paintings in the tradition of Indian miniatures by Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh. Until June 13. More Favourite Things. Exhibits selected by members of the public. Until Oct 24 (Mon-Thur, Sat 10am-5pm, Fri 10.30am-5pm, Sun 12. …