Delaroche work "ruined" in war rescued for show

Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:58am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A major work by French painter Paul Delaroche thought to have been virtually destroyed during a World War Two German air raid on London in 1941 has been unrolled and found to be in good condition.

"Charles I Insulted by Cromwell's Soldiers," depicting the British monarch shortly before his execution in 1649, was damaged when Bridgewater House was bombed on May 11, 1941.

The canvas, hanging in the dining room at the time, was taken down, rolled up and moved to a country house in Scotland where it has remained unseen for nearly 70 years.

Representatives of the National Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Scotland approached the Duke of Sutherland and asked if they could inspect the work ahead of an exhibition on Delaroche to be held in London from February 24-May 23 next year.

They discovered around 200 tears caused by shrapnel but, contrary to expectations, the painting was "almost entirely legible and has lost none of its emotive intensity."

The 1837 work will feature alongside other Delaroche paintings including "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey," itself damaged in a 1928 flood in London and presumed ruined but which was also rediscovered, in 1973, in virtually perfect condition.

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny said the show aimed to restore the reputation of a painter who, in the 20th century, has often been dismissed as overly theatrical and sentimental.

"This is the first exhibition of his work on this sort of scale that there's ever been in this country, and he's a painter who needs to be reassessed for all sorts of reasons," he said.   Continued...

<p>A handout photograph released in London November 24, 2009, shows the damage sustained by Bridgewater House in London during World War Two German air raids in 1941. Paul Delaroche's "Charles I Insulted by Cromwell's Soldiers", was hanging in the dining room at the time and sustained extensive shrapnel damage. REUTERS/The Times/Handout</p>