THE iconic Silver Swan musical automaton has returned to The Bowes Museum.

The swan has been in London since February, wowing visitors to the Science Museum’s blockbuster Robots exhibition, but will be back on show at the Bowes from April 7 as the museum gears up to celebrate its 125th anniversary.

It will be accompanied by a portrait of its inventor, John Joseph Merlin, which will be unveiled to the public.

The newly-discovered painting by Thomas Gainsborough – one of the leading artists of 18th century England - was acquired with the support of the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of The Bowes Museum.

It is a version of a more finished portrait of the inventor - whose best known work is the Silver Swan.

Museum director, Adrian Jenkins, said: “The painting celebrates and is a direct connection to the Museum’s most iconic object, the Silver Swan, and being able to show a portrait of its maker, by one of England’s most revered artists, creates a further dimension to our ability to pass on the secrets of the Swan’s inner workings to our audiences and to explore a mind of the late 18th century Enlightenment.”

The museum is open daily from 10am until 5pm. For more information visit or call 01833-690606.