At that time Belton was being acquired by the National Trust with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. However, there were not enough funds to purchase all of the contents of the house, and some of them were dispersed at auction, including this painting.
It is by Bartolomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657), a Dutch painter who spent time in Rome and developed a style of landscape painting that usually included classical ruins. Indeed, ruins became such a part of the Breenbergh ‘brand’ that he even included them in scenes from the Old and New testaments.
King Charles I owned no less than six Breenberghs, one of which ended up at Ham House, and is still in its early seventeenth-century frame.
In 1984 the Belton Breenbergh still had its ‘Belton’ frame, which many of the pictures there were fitted with. After being sold from the house it was given a new, seventeenth-century Dutch-style frame, which the new owner must have thought looked more authentic. The painting will now have a Belton-style frame made for it once again before it goes on display.
The Breenbergh originally came to Belton as part of the inheritance of Frances Bankes (1756-1847), who married Sir Brownlow Cust, 1st Baron Brownlow (1744-1807). Her father, Sir Henry Bankes (1714-1774), was a wealthy London merchant who assembled a substantial collection of Continental paintings.
The acquisition of the Breenbergh for Belton was supported by the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.