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Hidden: An unseen portrait of Oliver Cromwell

Past display archive
10 July - 19 October 2014

Room 5


Oliver Cromwell
by Robert Walker
circa 1649
NPG 536

Sir Arthur Hesilrige
by Unknown artist
circa 1650
NPG 6440

Recent investigation of the portrait of Sir Arthur Hesilrige, using the latest infra-red technology, has revealed what appears to be a hidden portrait of the Parliamentarian commander Oliver Cromwell underneath. The reasons for this change are obscure. Was the artist re-using an old canvas that he had been unable to sell? Or did Hesilrige, a Parliamentarian army officer and committed republican, have Cromwell’s portrait repainted as one of himself when the two fell out over Cromwell’s assumption of the role of Protector? This display puts the Gallery’s portrait of Cromwell alongside that of Hesilrige and, for the first time, shows the infra-red image of the hidden portrait.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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