Herald Sun

Gi­ant goes on dis­play

Af­ter decades ‘lost’ in stor­age, art heavy­weight re­turns

- SALLY BEN­NETT ARTS EDITOR sallyann.ben­nett@news.com.au

THE big­gest paint­ing at the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria will go on public dis­play to­day af­ter be­ing rolled up in stor­age for more than 70 years.

The 500kg work, painted in 1872, has been re­turned to its for­mer glory fol­low­ing a painstak­ing 10-week restora­tion.

Gallery staff were over­joyed to fi­nally hang Moses bring­ing down the Ta­bles of the law, which took ac­claimed his­tor­i­cal artist John Rogers Herbert six years to paint.

“It re­ally is a big mo­ment and there’s peo­ple all around Mel­bourne who know about the paint­ing and are dy­ing to see it,” head of con­ser­va­tion Michael Var­coe-Cocks said.

“It’s a se­ri­ously amaz­ing paint­ing.”

The im­pos­ing work is so large (6m x 4m) that it did not fit through any door­ways or in lifts. It needed to be rolled up on large cylin­ders to be moved into the gallery with the heavy frame in six pieces.

Mr Var­coe-Cocks said a team of 24 staff worked on the restora­tion, which re­quired spe­cially made equip­ment.

“It was a slow, elab­o­rate and com­plex process be­cause the paint­ing is so big,” he said.

“The only way we could ac­cess the mid­dle of the paint­ing was a gantry sys­tem, which we had to build so we could lie flat on the gantry and then roll out over the mid­dle of the paint- ing.” Mr Var­coe-Cocks said the colours in the paint­ing had stood the test of time and much of the restora­tion was to “sta­bilise” the paint and del­i­cately re­move lay­ers of grime.

He said good con­ser­va­tion was in­vis­i­ble to the public eye.

“I can’t be­lieve how well it’s come up,” he said.

“I’ve waited the en­tire time I’ve worked here, al­most 20 years, to see this paint­ing. It’s the only paint­ing in the col­lec­tion that I hadn’t seen.”

The NGV com­mis­sioned the paint­ing in the 1870s and it hung in the old gallery at the State Li­brary for many years.

It may have been taken down from dis­play for safe­keep­ing af­ter WWI.

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