Demon Uncovered in Petworth Reynolds

November 1 2023

Image of Demon Uncovered in Petworth Reynolds

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Trust shared a suitable Halloween story yesterday regarding a demon uncovered during a recent conservation project. The conservation of Joshua Reynolds' The Death of Cardinal Beaufort lead to the reappearance of a demon hiding in the shadows and beneath layers of dirty varnish.

To quote the article linked above:

John Chu, the National Trust's senior national curator for pictures and sculpture, explained: "It didn't fit in with some of the artistic rules of the times, to have a poetic figure of speech represented so literally in this monstrous figure.

"When it was first shown at the Shakespeare Gallery in 1789 it generated more controversy than any other work on show.

Critics argued that "while it was considered acceptable in literature to introduce the idea of a demon as something in the mind of a person, to include it visually in a painting gave it too physical a form", said Mr Chu.

Several friends and commentators tried to persuade Sir Joshua not to include it - or, on the painting's completion, to paint it out.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.