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Richard II portrait to go on loan to British Museum in 2012

Wednesday, 7th September 2011

Richard II portrait to go on loan to British Museum in 2012

Westminster Abbey’s portrait of Richard II is back in place at the west end of the nave after a conservation assessment carried out by Marie-Louise Sauerberg of Cambridge University’s Hamilton Kerr Institute and funded by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Programme.

The assessment has identified a number of areas which need work but has failed to shed any light on the identity of the artist. Many think that the wooden panel painting, which is the earliest known portrait of an English monarch, was the work of the court painter André Beauneveu, but expert opinion remains divided.

The portrait of the 14th century monarch will be on the move again next year. It will be loaned to the British Museum in 2012 for its major exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world.

The Museum says that the exhibition, which will be part of the London 2012 Festival and the World Shakespeare Festival, ‘will provide a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city in 1612, interpreted through Shakespeare’s plays.’

Shakespeare’s King Richard the Second is believed to have been written in 1595. It is the first part of a series of history plays, sometimes called the Henriad, and is followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V.

Henry IV, Part 2 features the end of King Henry IV’s reign and his final, dying hours in Act 4, Scene 4 are set in the Abbey’s Jerusalem Chamber.

The British Museum exhibition will run from July to November next year.

Meanwhile the British Library has put on show a former Abbey treasure in its current exhibition Royal Manuscripts; The Genius of Illumination. The exhibition features the Westminster Psalter.

Christine Reynolds, Westminster Abbey’s Assistant Keeper of the Muniments said:

The Westminster Psalter, which dates from around 1200, was probably made for us here and was in our inventory of 1540. But it’s one of those manuscripts which disappeared or was sold at the dissolution of the monastery. It was bought for the Royal Collection sometime later and then passed into the British Library collection in 1757.

It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.


Valerie - Foundation Director

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