Revealing the dramatic history behind Murillo's iconic altarpiece
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s painted altarpiece, Virgin and Child in Glory (1673), has left the Walker Art Gallery for the first time since it was acquired in 1953.
The iconic work has travelled to our conservation studio where it will undergo major technical investigation work, funded by the Art Fund. This will be the first detailed conservation treatment to be carried out on the altarpiece since the early 1860s.
The history of the altarpiece is an undeniably dramatic one! It was originally commissioned by the Archbishop of Seville (1670-1684), Ambrosio Ignacio Spínola y Guzmán, to form the centrepiece of a private chapel in his palace. The central section of the altarpiece was cut out and a copy was inserted, probably in the late 18th century.
By the early 19th century, the central fragment was in the possession of a retired linen draper in London, while the rest of the altarpiece was looted by a French general and taken to Paris. In 1862, the works were reunited under the ownership of Lord Overstone, a trustee of the National Gallery, who arranged for the two pieces to be combined.