14 September 2019

William Hogarth’s Altarpiece

William Hogarth’s largest known work resides inside St Nicholas Church in Bristol.

Drop in and hear about this vast triptych and its remarkable journey around Bristol since it was painted for St Mary Redcliffe in 1755/56.

Jenny Gaschke, curator of Fine Art at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will give an introduction to the painting at 12pm and 2pm inside the church.

The triptych depicts The Ascension featuring Mary Magdalene on a central canvas flanked by The Sealing of the Sepulchre and The Three Marys at the Tomb.

The painting was commissioned to fill the east end of the chancel of St Mary Redcliffe. It was Hogarth’s only commission from the Church of England; he did not follow any faith. He was paid £525.

The three paintings were too wide for the church and the side panels were placed at an angle to the central one. During the Victorian era Hogarth’s work was no longer thought to be suitable for the church and attempts were made to sell it. It was given to the Bristol Fine Art Academy, which became the Royal West of England Academy, in 1859. The work took up a great deal of space and presented challenges for public display. It was eventually rolled up and stored in the basement.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery officially acquired the paintings in 1955 from the Art Collections Fund.