The Demon Hidden in an 18th-Century Joshua Reynolds Painting

Joshua Reynolds painted The Death of Cardinal Beaufort in 1789. It depicts a scene from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2 in which the cardinal dies. But a recent restoration found that others had painted over parts of the picture, a sort of 18th-century censorship to cover something that had rubbed someone the wrong way. Careful removal of the overpainting and varnish revealed a terrifying creature looming over the dying man, with wild eyes and fangs- some kind of fiend or demon.

Art critics of his time objected to the painting when it was unveiled at London’s Shakespeare Gallery. Not only was the figure ugly, it was not mentioned in Shakespeare's original script. Reynolds did not want to change the painting, but apparently someone else did. Read about the discovery and see before-and after images of The Death of Cardinal Beaufort at ArtNet. 

(Image credit: © National Trust)

More Neat Posts