All too often enthusiasts of seventeenth-century furniture come across later "improvements" --Chippendale brasses, bracket feet updating stile or bun feet, and, of course, later carving. So we enjoyed learning that seventeenth-century paintings can also be the victims of later attempts to "improve" them.
The first image at the left is a rather boring Dutch beach scene, View of Scheveningen Sands by Hendrick van Anthonissen, 1641. It has hung in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England, since 1843. In 2014, the Fitzwilliam decided to clean and restore it, and then, lo and behold, discovered that the most interesting thing in it had been painted over -- a beached whale (see the second and third images).
But why on earth would someone think that removing the whale was an improvement?! Were they Victorian parents worried that it might scare the kids off enjoying the seaside? Or did a huge mound of blubber contradict their idea of the benefits of the newly fashionable sea bathing? Whatever the reason, without the whale to stare at, the folk on the beach look aimless -- people did not go to the beach just for fun and relaxation in the seventeenth-century.
We read the story in The Guardian, where it provoked comments of all sorts. We'll share just a few of them with you:
Mmm...moby it's just a big fish...
Was it painted in akrillic as that's what whales eat?
Probably not done on porpoise. It was more likely a fluke.
All together now..."Whale meat again..."
Art crime? I'm going to have to issue you a cetacean.
That makes a whale of a difference!
You just had to spout off on that one, didn't you? You're such a blow-hard.