When you own an extensive art collection—as does Queen Elizabeth II—you’ll occasionally need to send a couple of pieces out for some restoration work. Which is how conservators uncovered a man popping a squat and taking a poop in the corner of a 17th century Dutch painting that once belonged to George IV.
Smithsonian.com reports on this amusing bit of news from the Royal Collection Trust (which manages the crown’s art). A Village Fair with a Church Behind by Isack van Ostade was originally painted in 1673 and once hung in the Prince Regent’s famously over-the-top London home. As the announcement from the Trust puts it, with charming acidity: “Inventories of Carlton House in the Royal Archives show that the coarse, comic depictions of peasant life in A Village Fair with a Church Behind would have been entirely to the future king’s taste.”
Due to appear in an upcoming exhibit (Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer), the painting was handed over for restoration, which uncovered that a patch of shrubbery had been added to cover the crapping man in the corner. Before you blame the Victorians, it was probably the work of Edwardians:
It is believed that the offending figure was painted over in 1903, when the work, which by then hung in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace, was sent for treatment by an art restorer. The modified painting, perhaps now more in tune with Edwardian sensibilities, was returned to the Picture Gallery, where it hung for several more years.
Said the Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures, Desmond Shawe-Taylor: “Dutch artists often include people or animals answering the call of nature partly as a joke and partly to remind viewers of that crucial word ‘nature’, the inspiration for their art. Queen Victoria thought the Dutch pictures in her collection were painted in a ‘low style’; two years after her death perhaps a royal advisor felt similarly.”
And now this man is free to do his business before the public once more, as the artist intended.
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Image via The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.