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A brief history of the painting

In 1901 Joakim Skovgaard created the monumental fresco The Great Supper as part of his overall scheme for the Viborg Cathedral. The painting adorned the west wall of the cathedral.

Shortly after its completion the painting began to suffer from salt attack. As a result it was agreed with Joakim Skovgaard that the painting would be moved to the National Gallery of Denmark, which happened in 1913. The fresco was moved from the cathedral by means of a removal technique known as “strappo”, where the film of paint is lifted off the wall and transferred to a new surface. The operation was conducted by the Italian strappo specialist Franco Steffanoni. He treated the painting over the course of three months.

Detail of The Last Supper by Joakim Skovgaard.

Detail of The Last Supper by Joakim Skovgaard.

A gift to the Gallery

In 1913 Joakim Skovgaard gave the painting to the National Gallery of Denmark, where it was put on display. However, the painting was so large that it was necessary to trim 30 cm off it in order to fit it in.

The painting arrives in the Faroe Islands

In 1963 the painting was taken down, rolled up, and sent to the newly built Christianskirke in Klaksvík. Here it was placed in a niche specially constructed to hold the painting, which now serves as the altarpiece in the church. In connection with this move, conservators also restored the 30cm that had been trimmed off the painting in order to display it at the Gallery.

Discovering damage

In 1978 the painting was examined by the conservator Bent Hacke, who discovered recent flaking and some older bumps. He also discovered paint losses along the entire bottom edge of the painting and a substantial layer of dust on the horizontal areas of the bumps.

Bumps above and below the point where the two halves of the painting meet.

Bumps above and below the point where the two halves of the painting meet.

Twenty years later, in 1998, the painting was examined by Isabelle Brajer from the National Museum of Denmark in connection with a research project. Here she found deformations in the work caused by the way it was mounted. She found traces left by Steffanoni’s attempts at repairing the early bump, and also discovered a range of old, retouched paint losses and small, newer, untreated paint losses.

Now the painting will be examined yet again in connection with the restoration.

Updated: 15.oct.2014
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