Sunday morning at the National Gallery
Every Sunday morning I try to go to the National Gallery: a modern version of going to church. It’s convenient for many reasons, not least because I can drive (watching for potholes in the Haymarket) and even park (where Perronneau stayed in London, but I shall probably regret giving this secret away) provided I arrive just before 10 am. And generally the crowds are smaller.
This morning, worryingly so – at least in the fabulous Veronese exhibition which it is currently our great privilege to enjoy. I don’t need to add my encomia to everyone else’e fully deserved praise for this magnificent, thrilling and informative exhibition (the best thing since Barocci). As I’d already made several “proper” visits, I moved fairly quickly through the rooms to look at some specific favourites. I rapidly found myself the only person in each gallery apart from the guards. How can this be? Veronese is hardly a difficult artist.
I returned then to the Sunley room exhibition, Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting which is well worth a visit, not least because of the wonderfully suggestive Judgement of Solomon that I hadn’t seen for some years. This exhibition, in contrast to the Veronese, was packed with people. And while it is also attractively presented, the subject matter is not so obviously a crowd-puller. Can it be that the NG policy of charging for admission to Veronese (and withdrawing the season ticket option before I had a chance to buy one, on the first day) is itself the simple cause? I can of course understand the need to raise revenues to cover the cost of these enormously expensive international events, but the dilemma of preserving visitor numbers while doing so draws National Gallery staff too deeply into the world of market forces and pricing optimisation.
Incidentally, surely only one baby is missing from Sebastiano’s painting? Or is the executioner’s missing victim not a baby, but a golden goose?