Haunted paint­ing on show

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

AGRISLY paint­ing be­lieved to curse stu­dents into fail­ing ex­ams is among the prom­i­nent Vic­to­rian works on dis­play as part of the Guild­hall Art Gallery’s ‘Vic­to­ri­ans De­coded: Art and Teleg­ra­phy’ (un­til Jan­uary 22). Ed­win Land­seer’s Man Pro­poses, God Dis­poses (1864, right) de­picts two po­lar bears de­vour­ing a ship’s re­mains, in­clud­ing the crew. It usu­ally hangs at Royal Hol­loway, Univer­sity of Lon­don, where it has been plagu­ing stu­dents for a cen­tury—one, driven mad from sit­ting near it, is said to have writ­ten only seven words on his exam pa­per: ‘The po­lar bears made me do it.’ Nowa­days, superstitious exam-sit­ters feel safe, as the paint­ing has been cov­ered by a Union Flag since the 1970s.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, which also in­cludes rare arte­facts such as code­books and an in­ter­ac­tive mes­sag­ing ma­chine, The Great Gram­ma­ti­zor, cel­e­brates the 150th an­niver­sary of the first transat­lantic tele­graph, be­tween Queen Vic­to­ria and Pres­i­dent James Buchanan (http://city­oflon­don.gov. uk/guild­hal­lart­gallery).

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