AUCKLAND Castle's famous paintings of Jacob and His Twelve Sons by Francisco de Zurbarán are on loan to the Frick Collection in New York.

Other works from Bishop Auckland have been displayed at Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan.

Dr Edward Payne, head curator of Spanish Art at The Auckland Project, said: “The temporary closure of Auckland Castle has allowed us to travel Zurbarán’s masterpieces and further develop existing partnerships with US institutions.

“The exhibitions of our Spanish paintings in America have also provided a fantastic opportunity to share news of The Auckland Project’s exciting vision for Bishop Auckland, including plans underway for the Spanish Gallery.”

The Zurbaran paintings will remain in New York until April 22.

The exhibitions at The Frick Collection in particular have generated countless column inches in publications such as The New Yorker, The Art Newspaper and Spain’s La Vanguardia.

A sold-out event, featuring Philippe de Montebello, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Auckland Project’s chairman, Jonathan Ruffer, was broadcast and viewed as far afield as Colombia and Australia.

The first showing of Jacob and His Twelve Sons in New York builds on a year-long technical analysis of the Zurbarán paintings at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, and an exhibition at the Meadows Museum, Dallas, which closed in January.

Ian Wardropper, director of The Frick Collection, said: “The sheer visual power and rich narrative content of this series will draw visitors in and will be beautifully complemented by the Frick’s strong holdings in Spanish art.”

The selection of Spanish art from The Auckland Project collection was displayed at Sotheby’s from January 26 until February 11. Timed to coincide with Sotheby’s Masters Week, one of its busiest weeks of the year, the exhibition featured Spanish Old Masters acquired through the auction house.

Jointly curated by Sotheby’s and The Auckland Project, this was the first presentation of works that will be displayed in the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland due to open next year.

Jacob and His Twelve Sons will return to England before Auckland Castle’s reopening on December 1.