Rare 1400’s painting uncovered at Macc museum
AN art student discovered a 600-yearold masterpiece at West Park Museum in Macclesfield whilst researching an essay.
Anna Rhodes discovered the painting had been wrongly labelled more than a 100 years ago, whilst working on her MA in Art History and Visual Studies at The University of Manchester.
The 31-year-old works as a collections manager for Macclesfield Museums and chose to investigate a painting thought to depict the Virgin Mary and King David performing a miracle for her essay in a module on Northern Renaissance Art.
She discovered that the rare painting has been labelled incorrectly since it was first hung at West Park in 1898 and was actually a rare German Renaissance masterpiece depicting Saint Catherine of Alexandria – a Christian saint who was martyred in the early fourth century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius.
Anna, who lives in Salford and is originally from Cumbria, said: “When the painting came into the Museum’s collection in 1898 it was titled ‘The Virgin Mary Releasing a Soul from Purgatory at the Intercession of King David’.
“This had never been questioned and the panel was displayed throughout much of the last century with this interpretation.
“My research shows the painting to actually depict Saint Catherine and the burning philosophers.”
It is thought the panel, which was painted by an unknown artist in the German city of Nuremberg, would have once been part of a larger altar piece dedicated to Saint Catherine.
Anna added: “It became apparent that the panel was very unusual and deserved to be conserved and put back on display at West Park Museum.”
The 15th century Renaissance painting is now being restored thanks to the student’s research.
Anna said: “Knowing all this new information meant I could put a case forward for it to be conserved as there’s huge competition for this kind of thing. I could actually say that I believed this was worth it.
“It has been really rewarding to do something in the museum and make a tangible difference.”
Funding from the Association of Independent Museums, supported by the Pilgrim Trust, will pay for the cleaning, conservation and rehousing of the panel before it is put back on display in November.
●● Student Anna Rhodes is a collections manager for Macclesfield Museums
●● The painting of Saint Catherine had been incorrectly labelled for 100 years