Sharp eyed visitors to the Walker Art Gallery may have spotted that two paintings by Poussin and Turner are not currently on display, and may be wondering where they are. With Shakespearean flair, our Senior Paintings Conservator David Crombie has pointed out that a more apt question would be "Wherefore art thou, Poussin?" - I'll let him explain why:
"Two major works from the Walker Art Gallery were recently sent on loan to an exhibition in Verona, Italy. Nicholas Poussin’s ‘Landscape with the Ashes of Phocion’ and Turner’s ‘Landscape with River and Distant Mountains’ are part of Around Monet: the Landscape from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century currently showing at the Palazzo della Gran Guardia in the city until February 2014.
Our Turner will be displayed on the same wall as another by the same artist from the Liverpool University art collections in the Victoria Gallery and Museum.
The paintings travelled in specially designed crates to protect them from damage. On arrival at the Palazzo, the Turner crate only just fitted into the gallery lift leading up to the exhibition galleries, but the Poussin was too large for this. It was judged unsafe to carry the work up the huge wide marble steps within the Palazzo leading to the first floor galleries, as these can be quite slippery, and dropping the crate here could have been disastrous.
The solution was to use a very large crane to hoist the crated picture into the gallery over a balcony and into a high first floor window. This is not a usual method of moving paintings, and is quite scary to watch, but the crane operators were extremely skilled and the crate was lifted slowly up to the opening and moved inside.
Seeing the crate lifted over a balcony was an interesting parallel to the nearby tourist destination of Juliet’s balcony, famous of course from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a story that unfolds "in fair Verona, where we lay our scene..." Fortunately our painting’s story has a much happier ending!
As a conservator I was naturally interested in recent news reports about some possible damage to the bronze statue of Juliet outside the house associated with her, mainly due to thousands of tourists handling the statue and causing abrasion to the surface and a split to one of the arms. This highlights the importance of proper care and conservation for works of art, particularly those in public places, in order to preserve them for everyone to enjoy."