19 June—28 November 2024

William Hogarth’s Altarpiece

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

Drop into St Nicholas Church to see the vast triptych that was painted for St Mary Redcliffe in 1755/56. Julia Carver, curator of art at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, will give an introduction to the painting and its remarkable journey around Bristol at 2pm.

The triptych depicts Christ’s Ascension on a central canvas flanked by The Sealing of the Sepulchre and The Three Marys at the Tomb.

The painting was commissioned as a new altarpiece for Bristol’s St Mary Redcliffe church. It was Hogarth’s only commission from the Church of England. He was paid £525 and the receipt still exists.

During the Victorian era Hogarth’s work was no longer thought to be suitable for St Mary Redcliffe and attempts were made to sell it. Eventually, it was given to the Bristol Fine Art Academy, which became the Royal West of England Academy, in 1859. The work continued to present challenges for public display, not least due to its size. It was eventually rolled up and stored in the basement.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery officially acquired the triptych in 1955 from the Art Collections Fund and it has been on display at St Nicholas Church since the 1970s.

Open afternoons in 2024

  • Wednesday 19 June, 2pm – 3pm
  • Wednesday 25 September, 2pm – 3pm
  • Thursday 28 November, 2pm – 3pm