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A painting that vanished 50 years ago has been recreated from a photo

An 18th-century painting that vanished from a London gallery about 50 years ago has been recreated from a single black and white photograph.

Artist Fred Fordham used the photo of Giovanni Panini’s painting as the basis for his replica, matching colours against other work by the Italian.

Panini, who worked as an architect, was celebrated for his depictions of real and imagined ruins of Ancient Rome.

Architectural Capriccio With Ruins And Figures is now on display at the Octagon Room at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, which has reopened after a 17-month restoration.

The disappearance of the original is a mystery. It was not among items listed for sale when most of the 1710-built house was demolished in 1926, and is likely to have been installed by art collector Nellie Ionides, who bought the surviving Octagon Room and stables.

A large marble table was stolen from the building in 1969, but there are no reports to suggest the painting was also taken. It is possible Mrs Ionides sold it privately before her death in 1962.

Richmond council leader Paul Hodgins, chair of the Orleans House Trust, said: “The story of the missing original will no doubt fascinate amateur sleuths, art lovers and historians alike.

“Undertaking this restoration has been a unique process. The Gallery could not find a museum or heritage site which had commissioned an actual painted copy of a vanished painting.”

Graeme Seedal, of Barton Galleries, who worked on the project, said the copy suited the room “perfectly”. He added: “Initially working from just a black and white photograph for the composition, it was lucky that two similar versions of the painting were discovered for Fred to work out the colours.” Each stage was checked by the gallery until the final work was approved before being stretched, varnished and installed over a fireplace.

Fordham, 32, from Highbury, usually works as a comic book artist and has illustrated books for Philip Pullman.

He said: “I couldn’t miss the opportunity to paint something so grand and classical for such a beautiful building.

I felt honoured to be asked but I’m honestly not sure why I was chosen.

“It’s very different to comics because the priority with comics is narrative, not aesthetic. The art must be in service of the story. In the case of a painting like this, the fundamental concern is to make a single striking image.”

He also had to assure “baffled” friends that Panini was a painter, as well as a type of sandwich.


Article by Sophia Sleigh, The Evening Standard

Posted in: News on March 3, 2018 by...