Coming soon: Bruegel's painting explored
It's a rare privilege to really 'get under the skin' of an Old Master painting, both in the sense of delving beneath the varnish and paint layers and of getting the chance to discover the truth about its past – who painted it, how and why.
Upton House has been lucky enough to do exactly this with its Massacre of the Innocents painting: visitor donations have enabled us to finance vital cleaning and repair work and use the latest analytical technology to reveal and share, for the first time, the exciting true story of this much-revered scene.
Questions and clues
Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Massacre was a popular image and repeatedly produced by the artist and his son, Pieter Bruegel the Younger. However, the provenance of Lord Bearsted's version, bought before 1923, has always been uncertain. Which artist painted it – one of the Bruegel clan (there were many of them) or someone else entirely? How did it differ from other variations of the same title and similar compositions? Just how old was it? What did Lord Bearsted believe he was buying? Where do we start looking?
The 2016 conservation work has shed new light on these questions and many more. In our special display, available to visitors for a limited time from this autumn, you can turn art detective and witness, or try out, the 21st-century techniques – from magnification to infrared reflectography – that yield this extraordinary glimpse into art history.
The clues and clever technology will enthrall you. The truths they reveal will surprise you. The respect and veneration for this artist by one of the UK's top 20th Century art collectors, almost four centuries after the painter's death, will impress you.
And you'll probably never want to take another painting on face value again. There's always more to discover and appreciate ...