The elephant in the room is a whale – new poem at The Missing Slate

A couple of years ago I came across this story in The Guardian about how conservators at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge had uncovered something unexpected when restoring View of Scheveningen Sands by 17th century Dutch painter Hendrick van Anthonissen. What appeared to be a pleasant and quite mundane depiction of people walking along the beach turned out to be a definitely not mundane scene of wonder, where a crowd has gathered to look at a huge beached whale.

view-of-scheveningen-sands-hendrick-van-anthonissen-1

The painting before restoration.

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After restoration: can you spot the whale?

Obviously the increase in the number of whales in the painting has made it a lot cooler; there’s even someone standing on top of the carcass. I wrote a poem about this whale and its fate called ‘As heavy as the bottom of the sea’, and it’s just been published at The Missing Slate. I wrote about the animal itself, but I’d be interested to read a response to the idea of something being painted over and rediscovered later in this way, or some writing about restoration in general. Please get in touch if anything comes to mind.

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