Imagined Lives

July 3, 2012

 

So, London turned on a typically cold and wet summer again so far this year. Not that I regard that as a particular problem when visiting the old town. That’s what its fabulous museums and galleries are for.

I have written before about various visits to galleries. such as Art and Politics, Where Would We Be Without Maps.  

A particular favourite is the National Portrait Gallery. There is already a preponderance royal portraits at the best of times and during the Jubilee it was a bit overwhelmed with royal stuff.  But there are fortunately still other exhibitions on show.

As is often the case, the most interesting exhibitions are the ones tucked away in corners or downstairs by the bookshop. This time was no exception.

Imagined Lives is a small collection of portraits of unknown people that were once thought be be others.

Unknown woman, formerly known as Mary, Queen of Scots, by Unknown artist, circa 1570 - NPG 96 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

For example, this portrait which was once believed to be Mary Queen of Scots but which is now simply listed as a portrait of an unknown woman.

What makes this exhibition special is the very clever book that accompanies it. For each of the portraits a well-known author – John Banville, Tracy Chevalier, Julian Fellowes, Alexander McCall Smith, Terry Pratchett, Sarah Singleton, Joanna Trollope or Minette Walters has written a fictional account of what the lives of these sitters might have been like.

There are some wonderful portraits made all the more interesting by these stories.

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