Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mystery of the hidden pig discovered in 17th century Dutch painting

Barn Interior, one of 16 paintings given to Calvin College in Michigan by alumnus Cornelius Van Nuis two years ago, shows a woman and two children inside a barn. It was painted by Egbert van der Poel, who lived from 1621 to 1664.

Last summer, Joel Zwart, the director of exhibitions at the college, sent the picture to Barry Bauman, a Chicago-based art conservator, for cleaning

Bauman noticed that a ladder on the left side of the painting had been heavily painted over and the paint was flaking.

Underneath, he discovered the pig, butchered and stretched hanging upside down from the ladder.

"It was painted over, and the obvious question is, Why was it painted over?" said Mr Zwart. "Well, it was most likely not covered over by the artist. Very likely a wealthy patron bought it.

"It's this grotesque scene, this butchered animal hanging in a barn. And quite likely this patron hired another artist to paint it over."

Mr Zwart said the restored work "looks a lot different than before, and it looks better.

The restoration work also revealed information about the painting's history. It turns out that the work is a "pendant," one of a pair of paintings on a shared theme. Barn Interior's companion painting hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.


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