London's Royal Academy of Music Gets Its 'Lewd' Paintings Back

Classic Arts News   London's Royal Academy of Music Gets Its 'Lewd' Paintings Back
Updated 16 Jan 2007

Almost a century after they were removed because their then-scandalous content disturbed prudish Edwardians, hallway paintings featuring topless lovers are once again hanging in the hallways of London's Royal Academy of Music.

The whereabouts of the ten allegorical paintings were long unknown, but after an 18-year search they were recently discovered in a 16th-century castle in Denmark.

Curtis Price, principal of RAM, told the London Times, "It's absolutely fantastic, a major discovery. They change the atmosphere. It's suddenly warmer and more welcoming. They soften the whole front of the place. One realizes now that something's been missing. They completely make sense of the architecture. When you look at how it was, the empty arches, you now see how it all fits together."

The paintings were made by artist Baron Arild Rosenkrantz, who was commissioned by the conservatory in 1911 to paint pictures for the entrance of its new building in Marylebone Road, northwest London. Rosenkrantz (1870-1964), the son of a Danish diplomat, worked for most of his life in England. He made stained-glass windows and bronze sculptures for churches, houses and castles, including Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

The architects behind the building of RAM supervised the creation of the paintings, which were cut to fit the academy's interior archways. They were then removed two months after their official unveiling.

Price reportedly believes that the nudity may have been too shocking for the academy's many female students. "When you look at the paintings today they seem quite beautiful and tame," the Times quotes him as saying. "I would have thought that, even then, the most enlightened people would not have been shocked, but what must have unsettled the governing body is the context. The vast majority of students at the academy at that time were girls. To walk into the foyer of this grand new building and see mainly naked women ... in various allegorical musical postures was too rich for Edwardian blood."

No-one at RAM knew about the paintings until 1989, when Danish journalist Bente Rosenkrantz Arendrup, the artist's great-niece, contacted staff during her search to locate the artworks.

As it turned out, the pictures had been hanging in a private wing of the Rosenholm Castle, the Rosenkrantz family home near Aarhus in Denmark. Baron Erik Rosenkrantz, a descendent of the artist, and the Rosenholm Foundation agreed to lend them to RAM for an initial 30 years.

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