COVENTRY.- An old friend which prevented a British revolution in the 18th century has returned to the refurbished Herbert art gallery and museum in Coventry.
The stunning painting of George III has held prize of place in the venue which is currently undergoing a £20 million refurbishment and extension since its opening in 1960.
For the last three years the prized portrait of the King of the United Kingdom has either been in store in London or loaned to The Grand Palais in Paris for a Citizens and Kings exhibition.
But with the multi-million project due to be finished at The Herbert at the end of the year, Sir Thomas Lawrences portrait has returned to the city along with 600 other paintings courtesy of removal specialists Oxford Exhibition Services.
Ron Clarke, Keeper of Visual Arts at The Herbert, said the George III painting would be the jewel in the crown in the new Old Masters Gallery when it opens towards the end of 2008.
It is an amazing picture, he said. It was commissioned by two Coventry MPs Lord Eardley and John Wilmot and was painted in 1792 by Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was one of the most outstanding painters of his age.
George III was quite old and he had suffered severe bouts of madness. He had come through that but during his time on the throne, the British lost many of its American colonies so there was a growing disquiet among some people in the country about the monarchys role.
Sir Thomas Lawrence painted the portrait with great speed and his style is really quite exciting. The critics were shocked and said it was rough but the public saw it from a distance and the support for George III grew so the revolution never happened.
The portrait shows the King standing in front of Windsor Castle looking towards Eton but the sitting for George III took place at Buckingham Palace.
The original frame which is made of gilded carved wood has been repaired after being attacked by woodworm and in the 1970s the portrait was cleaned and re-varnished.
Ron added: It took four men to lift the George III painting and we had a slight problem when we brought it back to The Herbert. We had measured and measured it but we werent sure of the profile of the frame. We managed to get the painting in the lift but we didnt have the necessary few millimetres to get it out at the other side. We had to take the picture out of the frame. We then took the picture to the gallery in the lift and then the frame was brought in through the front entrance, up the stairs and into the gallery.