Newly acquired masterpiece goes on display

Ferens Art Gallery has acquired a rare painting by the much-celebrated Baroque artist Valerio Castello (1624-1659) which is now on display for the first time following extensive conservation.

Tobias Healing the Blind Tobit (c.1650) is a mature, multi-figure oil canvas and has been on loan to the gallery since 1973, where its poor condition has prevented its display. It was offered to the gallery with first refusal by its private owners who decided they wished to sell in 2016.

Now on display in Gallery One, the large canvas, 2.5 metre wide, has joined other significant early religious works of the Renaissance and Baroque period.

The important masterpiece now entering public ownership for the very first time was purchased through Private treaty Sale using the Ferens Endowment Fund, with support from the Arts Council England / Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and Art Fund. Importantly, the work has undergone much need attention and extensive conversation treatment, with up to 60 per cent of the paint layer missing, it was made possible with additional Art Fund support, ahead of its public display.

The large-scale work epitomises Castello’s mature style, with characteristically elegant figures and facial types described using broad, lively brushwork and rich, vibrant colours. This is the first painting by a Genoese-born artist to enter the Ferens’ permanent collection and makes an interesting link with Antonio Maria Maragliano’s dynamic polychromed wood sculptures depicting Hercules and Meleager (c.1700) – also from Genoa.

Councillor Terry Geraghty, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure and Chair of Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, said: “The painting has been on loan to the Ferens since 1973, and now becomes an important addition to the significant Italian Renaissance and baroque paintings in the gallery’s permanent collection.

“We are very grateful to all our partners for their funding support making the acquisition and restoration possible. It will now be admired by visitors to the gallery over the generations.”

Kirsten Simister, Curator of Art at Ferens Art Gallery, said: “We are delighted to have secured this impressive addition to the gallery’s permanent collection and particularly as the opportunity to acquire arose at an especially pressurised time during our refurbishment. We’re very excited to reveal the results of the Art Fund’s generous conservation grant which has literally breathed new life into the picture. It now takes its rightful place as a new collection highlight.”

The gallery is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm, (Sunday 11am – 4.30pm) with last admission 30 minutes prior to closure.