National Gallery Workshop – Initial talk by Colin Wiggins – 11 February 2016


Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano (about 1459-1517
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, about 1502-4

After his resurrection, Christ appeared to his disciples and showed them his wounds Thomas, who had been absent, remained sceptical.  Later he placed his finger in the wound in Christ’s side and believed.

Marvellous talk by Colin Wiggins who heads the Education Department at the National Gallery. The talk was the starting point to our project with the gallery to run over the next few weeks ending with a presentation in The Drawing Room.

Colin started with this picture by Cima and described how the new Sainsbury wing was built around this work. The perspective had been carefully worked out by Cima to work in the Church bearing in mind the optimum viewing point for those coming to pray.  The architect had borne this in mind with the arches that lead to the work decreasing in height …as such the best place to view the work is from where the columns start.

When you look towards the painting this is what you see:




When you look the other way the columns are no longer there:




The talk continued around the gallery and included this work by Tintoretto.



Jacopo Tintoretto (about 1518-1594)
Christ washing the feet of the Disciples, about 1575-80

Before the Last Supper Christ washed and dried his disciples’ feet to prepare them for priesthood (John13). Peter looks horrified, showing his initial protest at Christ’s action.  The torch bearer may be Judas, who left to betray Christ. The painting was made for the Chapel of the Sacrament in the Venetian Church of San Trovaso (SS. Gervasio e Protasio).

Colin Wiggins brought the work to life with his analysis of the painting.  There were two works commissioned and this is one of them. The two paintings were placed facing each other leading to the alter so would be viewed by those visiting the church from an angle as   to follow.




Tintoretto had painted the picture to work from this view so the near corner that initially appears a badly painted empty space now draws one into the picture and the man at the other end of the work becomes three dimensional and less wide.  Tintoretto bore in mind that this work would  be viewed in a dark space and used this to put detail in some areas whilst leaving others quite bare or creating interest and space by introducing an individual drawing a curtain back top centre of the painting, for example.

The last painting Colin took us to was by Canoletto… a beautiful view of Venice. Within the picture was the Church where the painting by Cima was commissioned and hung. It’s the white domed tower on the golden proportion to the right. He described Canoletto as one of the great, early abstract painers pointing out the musical intervals created by the chimneys, church spires, arches and roof triangles… one can almost hear the music.




Colin Wiggin’s talk slowly revealed the magic and skill of the various artist’s and their works and the illusions they created for us to view.  I could have listened to him talk all day… hugely knowledgeable about the collection with an ability to deliver information with humour and  take what might seem a dry subject (at first glance) into a magical place.


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