Medieval painting first shown at RSC now at National Portrait Gallery
16 June 2006
The 14th century painting The Dream of the Virgin by Bolognese master Simone di Crocefissi - first displayed in Chemistry Week 2003 at the RSC - has been hung at the National Gallery after discussions with its owner the Society of Antiquaries of London, the HQ of which is also at Burlington House.
A sample part of the painting
The painting is thought to have originally been made as part of an altarpiece, but was discovered in a railway hotel room in Bologna. A Fellow of the Society bought the painting from the hotel proprietor and donated it to the Society's collection in 1938. It remained unseen by the public until attracting some attention in 2003 when it was part of a display at the Royal Society of Chemistry highlighting the links between art and chemistry.
Conservation work carried out at the Courtauld Institute had revealed that, what appeared to be a rather conventional crucifixion scene, actually showed Christ crucified on a golden Tree of Life which rises out of the Virgin's womb. The rare iconography had been hidden by a layer of regilding and over painting.
The Society of Antiquaries is lending the painting for three years to the National Gallery whose collection contains very few works by early Bolognese artists. The General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, Dr David Gaimster, CEO of the Society of Antiquaries said "We are delighted that the loan of this important painting will make a significant contribution to the National Gallery's collection and can be viewed and enjoyed by a wider public".
The RSC's Chief Executive Richard Pike added: "Thanks to the strong link between us at our neighbouring Burlington House Learned Society we had the privilege of first revealing this astonishing image to the world; now it is wonderful to see it in such a marvellous showcase as the National Gallery.
"People tend to not to associate chemistry with art but we should point out that chemistry knowledge and practice played a major role in revealing the true image in this painting. Art and science are very close in many ways and it is part of our mission to draw people's attention to that reality."
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