barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


One of the Barber’s most important early masterpieces has returned to the gallery after an absence of almost two years – including a stint as star of the show in exhibitions in New York and London.

And Hercules and Deianira, 1517, by Antwerp artist Jan Gossaert, is looking better than ever following extensive cleaning and conservation – and the fitting of a new, but more authentic replica period frame and state-of-the art, low-reflect acrylic ‘glazing’.

The Barber’s painting was lent to Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance, the hit exhibition that opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in October 2010 before transferring to the National Gallery, London, from February to May last year. In New York, a huge image of it stood pride of place at the show’s entrance, while in London it was chosen as the prestigious cover image for the exhibition catalogue.

After the exhibition, it remained at the National Gallery for cleaning and conservation by one of the world’s leading conservators. As well as revealing once more all the subtleties of tone, colour and detail of the original painting, the removal of areas of latter over-painting exposed almost intact Gossaert’s signature ‘carved’ into the painted stone of the floor. This had been concealed perhaps 250 years ago, probably to help sell the painting as by the more marketable Albrecht Dürer – but there is now no doubt that it is a major work by Gossaert, a great Northern Renaissance master in his own right.



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