Every day the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction

January 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Extraordinary images have been discovered hidden beneath two 500-year-old paintings at the National Portrait Gallery.

A version of The Flagellation of Christ has been found on the canvas underneath a portrait of Thomas Sackville, the Tudor statesman and poet.

A portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s spymaster and secretary, is thought to have been painted on wooden blocks previously used for a depiction of the Virgin and Child. The images were revealed with infra-red reflectography and X-radiography during a five-year study at the gallery into the working practices of Tudor artists.

This has allowed the images to be seen underneath layers of paint without disturbing the main works. Experts are hopeful of making further discoveries when other Tudor paintings are X-rayed as part of their conservation.

Dr Tarnya Cooper, chief curator of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “It has been really exciting to discover these images beneath portraits. The re-use of wooden panels is an example of Tudor recycling, which was an essential part of life in the past. And yet, the people in the portraits painted over the top were perhaps unlikely to have known the panels were second-hand.

“In the case of Sir Francis Walsingham, the Protestant spymaster with the Roman Catholic image of the virgin and child beneath, you do wonder if the artist might be enjoying a private joke at the expense of the sitter.”  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Ellen Rogers

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