Blitzed Paul Delaroche artwork restored for show

Wartime curators bemoaned the loss of a great work when they rolled up the remains of Delaroche’s monumental painting, ‘Charles I Insulted by Cromwell’s Soldiers’ that had been pounded by shrapnel after a lethal bombing raid during the Blitz in 1941 which left the Bridgwater House – where the work had hung – decimated.

The pockmarked canvas, owned by the Duke of Sutherland, had lain forgotten in a vault for nearly 70 years, believed irreparably damaged, or even destroyed, until a group of National Gallery curators inquired after its whereabouts.

It was only when they located it in the bowels of Merton House – the Duke’s personal residence on the Scottish borders - and unfurled the painting on 7 June this year, that they realised to their astonishment, that it was still in tact.

The National Gallery is now preparing to display the magnificent work in public for the first time since it was furtively stored away during the Blitz. It will be unveiled with its shrapnel wounds on 24 February 2010 as part of a major exhibition at the gallery, Painting History, which will re-appraise the achievements of the French painter, Delaroche.

On 11 May 1941, Bridgewater House was hit by a German bombing raid, and a crater, ten feet deep, opened up in the street. Delaroche’s monumental painting, then hanging in the dining room, received extensive shrapnel damage. When it was rediscovered this year, conservators counted around 200 tears to the canvas. Traces of plaster dust from shattered walls were also found on the picture surface, blown there by the force of the explosion.

Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, said its re-discovery from the vaults – and its first unveiling – will mark a historic moment.

“We think it will create quite a sensation when it is shown in Room 1 of the gallery.

“Among the paintings thought to have been previously destroyed was this painting of Charles I. It was unrolled in June for the first time since being rolled up after the bomb damage. It is a one of the great French paintings of the 19th century which depicts a scene from British history, and it is completely legible. We can still see the damage from the explosion and we can even tell which direction the debris was shot onto the canvas,” he said.

Despite this damage, the picture was discovered to be almost entirely legible and has lost none of its intensity. Featuring Charles I as a Christ-like figure who is being taunted by Cromwell’s defiant troops, who blow smoke into his face moments before his execution in 1649, it is regarded as one of Delaroche’s most powerful pieces. The gallery hopes to fully restore the work after the exhibition. It has not yet been decided where it will hang.

The painting, to be hung in its own separate room, was originally displayed at the Paris Salon of 1837. It was commissioned by Lord Francis Egerton, the future 1st Earl of Ellesmere, at the height of Delaroche’s fame. For decades, it hung among the collection of paintings at Bridgewater House, in London.

The exhibition will also feature ‘The Execution of Lady Jane Grey’, painted by Delaroche in 1833, which was also believed to have been damaged beyond repair in the 1928 flooding of Tate Gallery’s basement and was rolled away and forgotten until 1973 when curators realised it was salvageable. It has undergone major restoration work since then.

Dr Penny said the exhibition would endeavour to re-assess the works of Delaroche – who fell out of fashion during the early 20th century – but who the director credited with “inventing a new kind of painting” that combined aspects of theatricality with realism that gave an edge to the ‘heroic narratives’ in history paintings.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions