The Queen has long admired this painting in Buckingham Palace without realising it has a revolting feature in it

What gets dirtier the more you clean it?

This painting belonging to Queen Elizabeth II:

‘A Village Fair with a Church Behind’ by Isack van Ostade, 1643.

Painted in 1643 by Dutch artist Isack van Ostade, it’s called “A Village Fair with a Church Behind”. It’s also one of 27 works about to go on display in an exhibition, “Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer”, opening on November 13 at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace.

The piece has been in the royal family’s collection since 1810, noted as one of two “exceedingly fine examples of Isaac van Ostade’s art”.

It got a bit of a touch-up by Royal Collection Trust conservators in the lead-up to the event.

Because they’re good at this sort of thing, the restorers noted a dog seemingly staring at a wall:

‘A Village Fair with a Church Behind’ by Isack van Ostade, 1643.

Actually, it was the bush the dog was pointing at which piqued their curiosity. It wasn’t original to the work.

So “painstaking cleaning of the painting” began and … surprise!

‘A Village Fair with a Church Behind’ by Isack van Ostade, 1643.

And here’s the original as van Ostade wanted it:

‘A Village Fair with a Church Behind’ by Isack van Ostade, 1643.

“With A Church Behind“. Haha.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor, surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures and curator of the exhibition, said:

“Dutch artists often include people or animals answering the call of nature partly as a joke and partly to remind viewers of that crucial word ‘nature’, the inspiration for their art.

Queen Victoria thought the Dutch pictures in her collection were painted in a ‘low style’; two years after her death perhaps a royal advisor felt similarly.”

It is believed to have been painted over in 1903, the last time it was sent to a restorer for treatment.

It was originally acquired in 1810 by the then Prince of Wales, George IV, who liked that sort of thing, being a noted fan of “coarse, comic depictions of peasant life”.

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