Paolo Veronese’s Pool of Bethesda: Did missing 'masterpiece' face the ultimate judgement in Peterhead? – Scotsman comment

Cleaners have been developing something of a reputation as the bête noire of the more avant-garde exponents of modern art.

The Resurrection of Christ by Paolo Veronese is displayed at an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery in London (Picture: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)
The Resurrection of Christ by Paolo Veronese is displayed at an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery in London (Picture: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)

For example, in 2001, an ‘installation’ by Damien Hirst featuring beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays at a London gallery was tidied away.

Three years later at Tate Britain, a bag of paper and cardboard by Gustav Metzger was thrown out. It happened again in 2014 when works by Sala Murat, made of newspaper, cardboard and, er, broken biscuits, at an exhibition in Italy, were binned by a cleaner. The cleaning firm stoutly defended their employee, saying she was “just doing her job”.

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So modern artists do need to beware the ultimate criticism that their work is, quite literally, “rubbish” by those who are expert in exactly that.

However, now it appears that Peterhead’s Arbuthnot Museum may have, just possibly, thrown out a full-blown ‘Renaissance masterpiece’, Paolo Veronese’s Pool of Bethesda, at some point in the early 1900s.

The painting, which is 6ft by 12ft, weighs about a tonne, and once graced a palace owned by Catherine the Great, was gifted to the museum in 1883, but seems to have disappeared from the records.

Attempts to find out what happened to the work, valued at around £13 million, have so far failed, prompting fears it was thrown out, among other theories.

Many have done it, accidentally chucked out a vital document, some cash or the house-keys in amongst the actual trash, but this seems a little big for that. So someone in Peterhead, many years ago, might just have made a rather big call about artistic merit. We await further news, with fingers crossed.

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