Restorers restored a painting from 1789 and accidentally discovered a demon on it (4 photos)

27 January 2024
Category: painting, 16+

It was covered up back in the 19th century.

Last month, conservators at the National Trust for England were preparing four paintings by British painter Joshua Reynolds for an exhibition to mark his 300th birthday when they accidentally summoned a demon. By restoring the painting “The Death of Cardinal Beaufort,” based on the work of William Shakespeare, they, so to speak, unlocked a new character. It turned out that it was deliberately painted over after the artist’s death.

This is Joshua Reynolds' painting "The Death of Cardinal Beaufort"

This is how she looked until recently. In October, the painting was lightened and the painted-over area behind the dying cardinal, where someone was hiding, was restored.

The canvas depicts a scene from the second part of Shakespeare's novel Henry VI (1623), in which the king witnesses the death of Cardinal Beaufort, his great-uncle.

Find one demonic difference

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Reynolds' contemporaries criticized the painting because it did not comply with some of the artistic rules of the time - the poetic figure of speech through this frightening figure was presented in too literal a sense.

If in literature it was considered acceptable to present the idea of ​​a demon as something located in the human mind, then the visual embodiment in the painting gave it too physical form.

When the painting was first shown at the Shakespeare Gallery in 1789, it caused more controversy than any other work in the exhibition. Then there was talk that, since the demon was not a character in the play, it should be painted over. Of course, the artist was against such a verdict.

The restored demon in all its glory

Already in the second edition of the painting in 1792 (after Reynolds' death), the demon looked very faded. The works of this artist are a challenge for restorers due to the specific materials that he added to the paints. In addition, specialists from past centuries applied six layers of varnish to the painting. So over time it completely darkened, and the demon disappeared.

And only now he returned to his place.

The painting "The Death of Cardinal Beaufort" is on display at Petworth House (West Sussex, England) and is part of a museum opened there back in 1947.

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