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Walker reveals its revamped Renaissance Rediscovered galleries

Medieval and Renaissance treasures owned by Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery have gone back on public show again after a £4.5million renovation of four of its key gallery spaces.

Renaissance Rediscovered showcases works by major artists including Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Murillo, van Dyck and Cranach the Elder across the Walker’s internationally important Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque galleries.

And the revamp and ‘reimagining’ also gives the Walker the chance to put on display for the first time a number of new acquisitions including Allegory of Painting and Music - the first painting by Giovanni Andrea Sirani to enter a UK public collection, and Still Life with Flowers by 17th Century Dutch artist Willem van Aelst.

They will join works such as Rembrandt’s famous Self Portrait as a Young Man, and Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII and Hilliard’s portrait of Elizabeth I which were seen in the recent The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics exhibition.

In total, more than 200 paintings, sculptures and decorative art objects including enamel, silver, glass and textiles from a 500-year period of history will be on show, along with works from the Walker’s extensive prints and drawings collection which now have their own bespoke gallery space with enhanced environmental controls.

A slideshow of treasures from the prints, drawings and decorative arts collections

Jessie Petheram, assistant curator of fine art, has chosen the prints and drawings to be showcased in the new room with the first items going on display coming from the Weld-Blundell collection which was acquired by the Walker in 1995.

She says: “I wanted to show highlights of that collection which are in keeping with the new galleries and look at the theme of the human form.

“There are many different ways artists have used drawings, both as finished works and sketches and it’s interesting to look at how drawings are such an integral part of an artist’s thought process and also a skill they can show off.

“These drawings also feel very immediate.”

It’s planned for the prints and drawings on show to be changed every six months.

The role of the wealthy 18th and 19th Century collectors such as William Roscoe and Joseph Mayer, who shaped the foundation of the Walker, is addressed within the new displays.

Mayer presented 14,000 objects to the city in 1867, while Roscoe owned many of the most important paintings on display. The same paintings were later bought by the Liverpool Royal Institution, a group of wealthy art patrons who gave its collection to the Walker in 1948.

Images of some of the statue and paintings collection on show in the new Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque galleries

Meanwhile the wealth generated by Liverpool’s involvement in the trade in enslaved African people, and how that made its way indirectly into the collections the city holds today, will also be considered, and often overlooked groups including Liverpool’s Black communities and women and gay and lesbian influence and involvement in art history will be highlighted.

The restoration has been funded with £4m from the Government along with additional support from the Art Fund, Henry Moore Foundation, Tavozolla Foundation and Art Friends Merseyside.

Kate O’Donoghue, the Walker’s curator of international fine art, says: “We’re thrilled to be returning the rare and exceptional paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from our Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque collections to permanent display in stunning, refurbished galleries.

“Accompanied by new perspectives and fresh interpretation which breathes new life into a historic collection, this is a significant moment in the history of the Walker.

“We’re hugely grateful to the UK Government and our other partners, including Art Fund, for their support in creating these beautiful spaces and ensuring these works can continued to be enjoyed into the future.”

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