Rossetti’s celebrated redhead to be returned to ‘full aesthetic power’ at Guildhall Art Gallery
La Ghirlandata, the Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece described by the artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as “my very best picture”, will be restored to its former glory, following the award of a conservation grant from Bank of America.
In early January 2019, the painting will be removed from public display at the City of London Corporation-owned Guildhall Art Gallery, in order to prepare it for analysis and conservation.
The portrait, arguably, one of the most popular works in the City Corporation’s extensive art collection, depicts a red-headed young woman, seated in a floral and shaded setting, playing a harp.
Over time, the artist’s vibrant palette has become compromised by thickly applied and discoloured varnish, and the original frame’s finish has become obscured by dirt and damage, strengthening the case for extensive restoration and conservation.
The grant will fund two conservators to cover the duties of the art gallery’s in-house conservation team, which will work with Tate Conservation Science to examine the painting, restore the original frame, and bring Rossetti’s intense colours back to life.
Rossetti painted La Ghirlandata in 1873, during a turbulent period in his life, and described it as “my very best picture - no inch of it worse than another.”
Graham Packham, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:
“Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata is one of the Guildhall Art Gallery’s most widely admired and best-known art works, and it is entirely fitting that we give this beautiful painting and frame the care and attention that they deserve.
“My colleagues and I warmly welcome the news of the restoration project and are hugely grateful to Bank of America for its generous support.”
Elizabeth Scott, the City of London Corporation’s Head of Guildhall Galleries and Principal Curator of Guildhall Art Gallery, said:
“It is wonderful news that La Ghirlandata will benefit from the Art Conservation Project, thereby, joining a distinguished list of past recipients.
“We look forward to returning the painting to its full aesthetic power and through our international loans programme, to working with art galleries at home and abroad to enable it to be appreciated by as many people as possible.”
Andrea Sullivan, International Head of Environmental, Social and Governance at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said:
“La Ghirlandata is one of Rossetti’s most celebrated works and one that we want to ensure is maintained and preserved for years to come.
“A key pillar of our global Arts Programme is to work in partnership with public institutions to ensure important works are restored and preserved.
“We are delighted to be supporting Guildhall Art Gallery to help safeguard this Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece.”
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.
The City Corporation is also developing Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate – a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes £110m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £2.5m to support the detailed business case for the proposed Centre for Music.
Notes for Editors:
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Cecilia Cran, Media Relations, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
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About the City of London Corporation:
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
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