Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Rembrandt the National Gallery

Picture: NG

These great late Rembrandts are back from exhibition in Haarlem and I'm delighted that the NG has hung them exactly where I recommended. They look much better on a long wall with space to see them from the side, and the lighting is better too. I'm sure it wasn't really my post that inspired them, but whatever the reason it's a great improvement and you can really appreciate the masterful way Rembrandt has positioned the sitters so they appear to engage you directly whether you view them face on, or from the right or left.

But unfortunately they are newly glazed. The NG usually uses very high quality glass, but there were still distracting reflections. I do hope they're not economising with inferior glass. The information department could only tell me that it's 'laminated'.

The glass was added by the NG before the pictures went out on loan. The NG's policy is to glaze pictures that are most at risk of being touched by visitors - intricate still lifes, for example, that people sometimes poke by mistake when pointing out fine details. These are not especially at risk, except that they are hung in the Orange Wing where the recent reduction in the number of guards means that their room is often unattended. When I was there at the weekend several rooms in that wing were closed 'until further notice' due to staff shortages. The Claude room, containing part of the greatest collection of Claudes in the world, seems to be closed more often than not. It always seems to be the first victim when there aren't enough staff.

Protecting the paintings must be paramount, and sometimes that means glazing is necessary. But cost-cutting is a bad justification, and it would be a shame if seeing pictures through glass becomes the norm simply because the gallery can't afford enough guards.

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