Paul Delaroche: Lady Jane Grey | Exhibitions | The National Gallery, London

by: The National Gallery

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painting history de la Roche and Lady Jane Grey opens on the 24th of February 2010 paul de la roche was born in 1797 in paris in the immediate aftermath of the french revolution della Russia's most famous work today is probably the National Gallery's the execution of Lady Jane Grey depicting the teenaged great niece of Henry the eighth the known as the nine days queen the impact of this painting was to influence our perception of Jane for the next 175 years the real Jane Grey is extraordinarily elusive because to completely conflicting images of her come down to us in history one is of the steadfast martyr the Protestant heroine who went confidently to her death the other one is the innocent victim who was manipulated and abused by those around her Jane was the granddaughter of Henry the eighth's sister Mary Henry had decreed that she should become queen if his own children Edward Mary and Elizabeth were all to die in 1553 Henry's son the young Edward the sixth became fatally ill with tuberculosis a fanatical Protestant he decided to exclude his two sisters from the succession on the grounds that Mary was Catholic and Elizabeth though Protestant was not Protestant enough Jane was declared Queen on Edward's death in the summer of 15:53 she based herself at the Tower of London which is where all Tudor monarchs began their reigns but not even the tower could protect her from Mary Tudor supporters the citizens of London never liked it they were married because they wanted to follow Henry the eighth's will and of course Mary raised an army the Duke of Northumberland reigns defeated his troops melted away Mary was soon back in London controlling London Jane was inverter Jane was executed on the 12th of February 1554 within the privacy of the tower grounds on a scaffold erected behind the White Tower her execution was if you like double reported there's an authentic version and there's an apocryphal version in the authentic version she walks boldly steadfastly to her death you know confident dressed in black reading a prayer book you know there's no fumbling you know there's no hesitation but there's another version that appeared about six months later and in that Jane is the innocent victim she has been you know be used and manipulated and she is groping blindly for them for the block she's vulnerable that's that version that Dellacroce gets holed up through a fringe source and you know he does this extraordinary painting what we have is a fascinating amalgam of costumes and dress history if we take a first look at the ladies-in-waiting on the left hand side of the picture we've got two people actually closed in fantastic quite accurate 16th century costume the executioner on the right hand side has a few historical indicators that are accurate to the period but the overall impression of the executioner is much more Italian it I wouldn't have expected to see somebody like that in the Tower of London and this is presumably della Russia's impression of the undergarments of achieved a woman but actually the overall silhouette is definitely much more an 1830s shape Steven ban the exhibition's co-curator believes that a young actress called an ace or bear was the model for Lady Jane Grey I first became interested in Anais because I acquired a drawing which although I should actually dedicate it to her the politically intimate signature and which she then given away to a friend in 1836 so I thought there must be a reason for him to give it to her in the first place and also a reason for her to give it away I didn't actually proceed much in that line of inquiry until I actually managed to acquire two letters and these again are full of expressions of devotion a passionate love but they also talked about arrangements for doing a portrait offer for what we might describe the sitting or almost a tableau Viva which would be used for the ultimate product of the final painted version of the Lady Jane Grey such was the disregard for de la roche by the early 20th century but when Lady Jane Grey was damaged in a flood while at Tate in 1928 no one even bothered to investigate the extent of the damage for almost 50 years it was simply written off as completely ruined quite by chance the painting was unrolled in 1973 and found to be an almost pristine condition it was dirty and a little scratched and torn but these photographs show the picture as it was cleaned and repaired by the National Gallery's Conservation Department in 1975 it was put back on display at the National Gallery and rapidly took its place as one of the public's favorite paintings tickets available now for painting history della

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Introduction to the major National Gallery exhibition, featuring commentary from historian John Guy, costume maker Eileen Read and art historian Stephen Bann. Discover more on the National Gallery website:

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