Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Whale surfaces

"It seemed a very unassuming painting depicting a very calm beach scene set in winter. There were clusters of people gathered. I was unclear why they were there, but it didn't seem too out of normal," says Shan Kuang, a conservation student at the University of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum. She was tasked with removing the yellowed varnish from the 1641 Dutch painting "View of Scheveningen Sands" by Hendrick van Anthonissen. Her careful work with scalpel and solvent revealed a sperm whale that had washed up on the beach in The Hague (BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES HERE). Researchers at the museum noted a surge in public interest in whales because of the many documented strandings on the coast of the Netherlands in the 17th c. In subsequent centuries, artists thought nothing of painting out dead animals or other images found to be offensive or inappropriate to where the painting was hung. Another case in point: a 17th c. Dutch painting in which a butchered pig was painted over!

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