Thanks to a donation from the Sunday Times art critic through the Friends of the Ferens adopt a painting scheme, the painting of ‘Portrait of a Unknown Musician’ (c.1644) by William Dobson will now go on display.
For a while it was thought that this painting might represent Henry Lawes, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and a composer in the court of Charles I. But comparison with a painting of Henry, possibly by the artist Lely, has placed this identification in doubt.
We now believe Dobson has actually captured Henry’s brother, William Lawes, a lute player and composer who was a particular favourite of the King during the Civil War.
Waldemar Januszczak, said:
“William Dobson was the first truly significant British painter. The Ferens Art Gallery is immensely fortunate to have his intriguing portrait of William Lawes in its collection. And I am immensely fortunate to be able to help, in a tiny way, with its restoration. I can’t wait to see the results.”
Following extensive conservation treatment and cleaning of the canvas and frame, work has been undertaken to remove a layer of sooty black surface dirt before filling and retouching was carried out on paint losses and areas where the paint had been abraded. The painting was then spray varnished.
After seeing a tweet in December 2016 promoting the scheme Waldemar Januszczak responded asking if he could adopt the painting by ‘England’s first painter of distinction’, William Dobson. Purchased by the gallery in 1961 with the aid of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the oil on canvas was last on display in 2015 prior to the gallery’s closure for its recent major refurbishment but it now seen dramatically transformed by the cleaning process.
Kirsten Simister, Curator of Art at Ferens Art Gallery, said:
“It is fantastic to see Dobson’s painting conserved and back on display. We are extremely grateful to Waldemar Januszczak and delighted to welcome him back to the gallery to host a special ticketed event arranged at his request. This will allow the portrait of the composer, Lawes, to be accompanied by a live performance of his music, performed by the Early Music Department at the University of Hull.”
“Works of art are extremely fragile and can be easily damage. I would like to personally thank Waldemar Januszczak for his support of the gallery. The Adopt a Painting scheme initiated to care for the gallery’s collection is a unique opportunity for the public to help us preserve important works and save them for future generations.”
Januszczak will host a talk on the painting and its thought-to-be subject at 1pm in the Ferens Studio.
This will be complemented by a suite of live classical early music featuring compositions by both William and Henry Lawes, performed by Hull University music students. The event will conclude with the screening of a short documentary film produced by the critic and focusing on the restoration process of the painting.
Entry to the talk is £12 / £10 Friends of Ferens with advance booking essential.
The gallery’s Adopt a Painting scheme began in 2007 and has so far enabled 11 pieces of work to be conserved back to their original splendour.
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