National Gallery removes ‘antisemitic’ portrait from website ahead of exhibition

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National Gallery removes ‘antisemitic’ portrait from website ahead of exhibition

National Gallery removes picture of Albrecht Dürer's Christ Among the Doctors from website over its 'antisemitic portrayal' before major exhibition.

The 1509 painting Christ Among the Doctors, by Alfred Durer, was removed from gallery's website ahead of new exhibition over antisemitic portrayal of Jews
The 1509 painting Christ Among the Doctors, by Alfred Durer, was removed from gallery's website ahead of new exhibition over antisemitic portrayal of Jews

The National Gallery has removed a picture of an artwork from an upcoming major exhibition from its website over its antisemitic portrayal of Jews.

Albrecht Dürer’s Christ Among the Doctors from 1509 depicts a story from the Gospel according to Luke of Jesus on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, alongside an antisemitic caricature of Jewish men from synagogue.

The National Gallery had initially displayed the artwork prominently on its website advertising the upcoming exhibition without mentioning its ‘offensive’ portrayal of Jews.

After the gallery was alerted to the fact by Jewish News reader Ralph Harris, it removed the picture online and highlighted the antisemitic representation in its gallery.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware that the representation of the Doctors may cause offence and both the wall texts and the audio guide in the exhibition will acknowledge and address caricature and antisemitic portrayal in the painting.

“We have removed the image and accompanying text from our online gallery of selected exhibited works as we felt that in this format there was not adequate space for the interpretation required for this work.”

It had previously vowed to review any texts relating to works by Dürer in its exhibition, while saying: “We monitor on an ongoing basis our texts both online and in the Gallery relating to pictures in our temporary displays and exhibitions and permanent collection.”

The magazine Art Quarterly, which featured the image in its Spring 2021 issue without mentioning its antisemitic context, has also vowed to have “a more thorough check of both text and images in the future.”

Responding to the reader’s complaint in an email seen by Jewish News, editor Helen Sumpter said: “I am grateful that you have brought this to our attention, we are very mindful that historic works of art may illustrate values and viewpoints that are unacceptable today, and always aim to provide relevant context.”

According to the Gospel story, The Finding in The Temple, portrayed in the painting, Jesus “lingered” in the Temple, while Mary and Joseph headed home, only to find him three days later, engaged in discussion with the elders.

The National Gallery’s exhibition, Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist, is to take place from November 20 to 27 February 2022.

It is the first major exhibition of Dürer’s work in the UK for nearly two decades.

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