Damaged Delaroche work on show for new exhibition

Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:36am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A painting by Paul Delaroche believed to have been virtually destroyed in a German air raid on London during World War Two went on display on Tuesday as part of a new exhibition on the French artist.

The large canvas entitled "Charles I Insulted by Cromwell's Soldiers," depicting the British monarch shortly before his execution in 1649, is hanging in the National Gallery in London with heavy shrapnel damage and discoloration clearly visible.

It is in the gallery's free admission area, and organizers hope it will encourage visitors to pay to see the new show "Painting History: Delaroche and Lady Jane Grey" in the adjacent Sainsbury Wing. Full price tickets cost eight pounds ($12).

The exhibition is designed to restore the reputation of an artist who, when painting for Paris shows in the 1800s, was hugely popular but whose works, recognizable by their scale and melodrama, fell from grace for much of the following century.

It features what is probably Delaroche's most famous image "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey," itself damaged in a 1928 flood and presumed ruined before being rediscovered in 1973 in almost perfect condition.

The painting continues to be one of the gallery's most popular works to this day.

Also included in the exhibition is the equally dramatic "The Princes in the Tower" (1830), which curator Christopher Riopelle said underlined Delaroche's ability to recreate the drama of a specific moment in history.

"It is the perfect example of Delaroche's genius in focusing in on a moment in the story of utmost tension and utmost terror," he told reporters at a press preview.   Continued...