Artwork - The Death of Lara

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  • Title: The Death of Lara
  • Artist: Charles West Cope
  • Date: 1854--
  • Medium: Fresco painting
  • Categories: British history
  • Catalogue number: WOA 2889
  • Description: Taken from the poem by Byron, the painting depicts the death of Lara.

    Lord Byron\'s long poem Lara tells of the feudal count Lara, a typical Byronic hero, who returns to his people after a long unexplained absence together with his faithful page Kaled - who is in fact a young woman. As a result of the sinister disappearance of Lara\'s enemy Sir Ezzelin, war breaks out between Lara\'s overlord Otho and Lara. Lara is shown dying, having been shot in the chest by the arrow that lies at his side. Kaled kneels beside him and Otho looks on. Lara remains scornful to the end: \' when one near display\'d the absolving cross, And proffer\'d to his touch the holy bead, Of which his parting soul might own the need, He look\'d upon it with an eye profane, And smil\'d - Heaven pardon! If t\'were with disdain\'.

    Originally named the Poets Hall the Upper Waiting Hall was a hotbed of activity between 1848 and 1854 as six artists competed with each other to paint scenes from some of Britain\'s greatest literature. The Hall was a space in which artists without previous experience in the technique could develop and learn the medium of fresco whilst observed by the Fine Arts Commission. The artists were selected having displayed work in the Westminster Hall exhibitions. As a result of a number of technical problems, the paintings were subject to damage and decay to such an extent that in 1894 they were hidden from view behind wooden panelling. Conservation has since taken place saving the paintings and allowing them to once again be viewed and appreciated.

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