Wednesday 01 February 2023

Video: Dead whale appears on Scheveningen beach painting

Restorers working on a Golden Age painting of the beach at Scheveningen by Dutch master Hendrick van Anthonissen have made a startling discovery.

The original work featured a dead whale which had been painted over at a later date.

It had always been a bit of a puzzle what the people standing on the beach were actually looking at. But when the painting, which has been owned by the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge for 140 years, was cleaned, the mystery started to become clear.

Conservator Shan Kuang first uncovered a man standing in mid air. Then gradually the hump of the whale appeared.

The whale appears to have been painted over in the 18th century, perhaps because a dealer thought it would sell better without the dead whale.

‘Today we treat works of art as entities, but in the previous centuries paintings were often elements of interior design that were adapted to fit certain spaces – or adjusted to suit changing tastes,’ Kuang said.

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