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« Restoration and Reversal | Main | In Search of a Model for Renaissance Art »



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In the news story I wrote up on it I included a 'before' picture and the pillar is clearly visible. The conservator Carl Villis remarked to me that it was an odd feature of the painting and it does not feature in the copy.

You can see the before picture , it's not a huge resolution but if you click on it there is some more detail. herehttp://melbourneartnetwork.com.au/2012/05/02/news-ngv-unveils-nicolas-poussins-restored-the-crossing-of-the-red-sea/

Also the NGV has published a short book on the restoration project, not sure how easy it is to get hold of outside of Melbourne.I'm sure if you contacted them they could arrange to send a copy.

David Packwood

Thanks for that Katrina.

I might do that.

Best- David

Mark Shepheard

To add to Katrina's comment, the pillar of fire is also visible in the 1685 tapestry copy (Paris, Mobilier National), though it appears to be slightly wider and thus makes more sense visually than the rather odd strip-like version in the painting. On the issue of earlier cleaning and restoration, Franz Philipp states in his 1964 article on the painting that it was restored in London in 1947, prior to its purchase by the NGV. It was subsequently restored by Horace Buttery in 1960, again in London, after the Paris exhibition. The short book on the restoration project probably has a rather short print-run: the ISBN is 9780724103539, which may be useful for anyone wanting to obtain a copy.

Stephen Conrad

The Australians really must ensure that their publications are sent to Europe for sale! Good to have the ISBN of the book NGV are issuing, though will it ever appear in British/Euroland/USA art bookshops I wonder? Or on Amazon? It was not on the NGV bookshop website yesterday either.

I confess I have not seen the essay by Franz Philipp that appeared in the Melbourne-published Festschrift in 1964 which says it was restored in 1947 in London. The Golden Calf was sold by the Radnors in 1945, when the NG London bought it directly, but Agnews bought the Red Sea also in 1945 and did not sell it to Melbourne until 1948, which makes one think the London National Gallery may have been unhappy about its condition compared with The Golden Calf, and Agnews had more remedial work to do on the Red Sea before the sale to Melbourne if it was restored in 1947 (which is where the NGV's recent blog on the picture restoration differs as they say 'It was cleaned in London in 1947 by an as-yet unknown restorer while still in the collection of the Earl of Radnor' - and can a picture in the trade be said, as it says there, to have 'remained in private hands until 1948'?). Blunt states somewhere (I forget where, but probably in a Burlington Magazine article) that he regretted he did not put up a better fight to keep the pair together when sitting on the UK Export Committee in that period.

It is interesting that Buttery restored this in London in 1960 and the NGV blog says that it was exhibited after the 1960 Paris show in the London NG in 1961. The Paris show closed at the end of July 1960, so how long did Buttery spend restoring the picture (did he do this besides Lank in the National Galleries own workshops?) if it was seen next to The Golden Calf in the National Gallery in presumably early 1961? Was it accepted then that there simply less for him to do because of the 1947 Agnews restoration?

It is interesting that the copy from which Gantrel seems to have made the engraving has surfaced in California, but is it really the case that the Paris tapestry (reproduced in the Villa Medici exhibition catalogue, 2011, Vol. 1, p. 46) which are very much faded so that most of the cloud in the sky has completely vanished, shows a wider faded pillar of pink cloud? The cloth/material being pulled out of the water in the right foreground of the painting is further to the left there (aligned with Moses' raised hand) than in the tapestry where the cloth in the water reaches the border decoration, and to my eyes what appears to be a depiction of a wider faded pillar of pink cloud is not correctly aligned in the tapestry. Granted tapestries are not paintings, and weavers may adjust a cartoon/image drawn as a guide for them to use, but this does not obtain in the newly found replica either.

Let's hope the Melbourne book will fully allow some of these questions to be answered.

David Packwood

I'd like to get hold of the Melbourne book.

Thanks for all the information.

Stephen Conrad

The NGV website has just put the details of the book in their online shop. The postage is actually, at least to the UK, more than the book!

inventory clerks London

I still cannot get the main idea here, having in mind that I have red these paragraphs several ways. Anyway, I will be interesting see your project.


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