When the Germans rained bombs on London during the Blitz in World War II, one of its victims was thought to be French painter Paul Delaroche’s stunning “Charles I Insulted by Cromwell’s Soldiers.” But the painting has been rediscovered after 70 years in good condition.
The artwork was judged to be in good condition, despite tears caused shrapnel and debris from the raid.
The painting, which depicts the British king shortly before his death at the hands of an executioner, was hit in a May 1941 bombing. After the raid, the canvas was removed from its frame, rolled up and spirited out of flaming city.
For 70 years it remained that way in a country house in Scotland. Recently, however, representatives from the National Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Scotland inspected the work in anticipation of a Delaroche exhibition in London next year.
During his lifetime, Delaroche was one of Europe’s most famous painters. Although French, he often depicted dramatic, if inglorious, moments in British history.
But modern art critics, who considered his works theatrical and sentimental, often dismissed him. National Gallery director Nicholas Penny said, however, the show would hopefully lead to a reassessment of the painter and his position in the art world.
“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.
The museum released photos of the painting this week. Although damaged by 200 tears caused by the bombing, the gallery said it is “almost entirely legible” and had lost none of its “emotive intensity.”
The 1837 work will be displayed with such Delaroche paintings as “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey.”
It, too, was damaged in a 1928 flood in London and presumed lost, but was also rediscovered, in 1973, and found to be in excellent condition.
“Many people dislike Delaroche,” Penny told Reuters. “When ‘Lady Jane Grey’ was put back on display it was put back reluctantly; people didn’t believe it was a great work of art at all.”
The Delaroche exhibition will be held in London from Feb 24 through May 23 2010.