COVENTRY.- A massive painting which has been checked every day for the last three years while it has been boarded up in the city has been unveiled.
The 17th century Bacchus and Ariadne painting by one of the greatest ever Italian painters, Luca Giordano, was so large that it couldn’t be moved out of The Herbert without risk of damaging it.
Contractors have worked round the 3020mm by 5825mm painting which has been boarded up since the final phase of the £20 million refurbishment and extension began at The Herbert in Jordan Well in 2005.
The painting highlights a Greek myth where the hero Theseus sails away, abandoning Ariadne on the island of Naxos but Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry, arrives to comfort her.
Ron Clarke, Keeper of Visual Arts at The Herbert, said the temperature and any vibration inside the valuable painting has been recorded daily since 2005.
“This is the greatest painting by one of the greatest Italian painters Luca Giordano who painted it by 1677 for the Rosso family in Florence,” he said.
“It was later sold and brought to England when Coventry MP Edward Ellice gave the painting to the city in 1855.
“He hoped it would be the start of a collection for a new art gallery and one story says that Ellice received the painting as part payment of a gambling debt.
“It was hung in St Mary’s Hall from 1855 and then the city’s reference library which caught fire in the Blitz. A hole was burned right through the painting and when it was cut out of its frame, it was rolled up too tightly and bent which meant half the paint of Ariadne’s face flaked off and there were other losses.
“The painting was restored and hung in The Herbert when it was first opened in 1960.
“This is one of our most prized paintings and it is fantastic that it has now been uncrated and hung on the wall. It has remained in good condition during the last three years and we are delighted to see it once again in all its glory.”
The Giordano painting will be hung in The Old Masters Gallery which will be opened to the public in August. The multi-million refurbishment of The Herbert will be completed in the autumn.