the virgin of the goldfinches in the saint dyfrig chapel

After many months of preparation, The Virgin of the Goldfinches has finally been hung in the Saint Dyfrig Chapel of Llandaff Cathedral. Yesterday I posted some slightly out of focus images of the space on the Artlog. But today Philippa Robbins went to the cathedral and took much better photographs, for which kindness I’m much obliged.

The painting hangs just inside the entrance to the chapel. The best view of it comes when visitors turn from the altar to leave, at which point the work takes centre stage during the long walk back. It’s been ‘floated’ on hidden brackets passing through the the inky blue velvet curtain that’s been hung to provide a dark background and bring out the colours.


The chapel is full of the most beautiful tombs, though the one above of a decaying body is a tad macabre.

Many people have been instrumental in bringing The Virgin of the Goldfinches to Llandaff, and now would be a good time to name and thank them. The Contemporary Art Society for Wales funded the purchase. The selector was William Gibbs, who reserved the work for CASW when it was still only a drawing on panel in my studio. His belief in it helped me bring the painting to a conclusion. The Very Reverend John T. Lewis, M.A., Dean of Llandaff, first saw the painting when William presented it to the CASW membership in 2009. Thereafter negotiations took place  for the painting to be housed in the cathedral, and Bryan Hibbard of CASW dealt meticulously with all the contractual matters. In the cathedral Michael Turk and Philippa Hallinan have been endlessly helpful and encouraging. Special thanks must go to Philippa who worked tirelessly to ensure a happy conclusion to the project. The Gibbs Family Trust generously funded the acquisition of velvet for the curtain, and Philippa made it beautifully. The curtain was installed by Tony Vearncombe, who then heroically stayed on to contribute his skill and ingenuity to improvising a set of brackets to mount the painting so that it appears to float on the surface of the velvet. The result is better than I had dared hope for. Bryan and Elizabeth Hibbard have been wonderful hosts during my many trips to Llandaff. Elizabeth is a genius of a cook, and moreover she’s looked after Jack for me whenever I’ve spent long hours at the cathedral. Bryan and Elizabeth have a beautiful garden of which Jack is most appreciative, even though he fell in their goldfish pond today! Last but not least I thank my friend Philippa Robbins, for more kindnesses than I can possibly list here. I presume too much on her generous spirit. Philippa, you’re the best!


7 thoughts on “the virgin of the goldfinches in the saint dyfrig chapel

  1. Pingback: the art log exhibition of maquettes: part four | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Beautiful, Clive. It looks splendid against the curtain. That dark blue really makes the painting stand out. What a marvelous place to have it displayed.

    • Thank you Jason. Now we have to wait and see what the response may be to all of this. Should everyone be happy with the painting and the way we’ve displayed it, then the Dean would like it to stay permanently in the cathedral, which of course would be the best outcome. And I think there isn’t a better place to show it than where it is right now, in the Saint Dyfrig Chapel. Fingers crossed that it finds favour there.

  3. The painting is beautiful – stunning. The installation works very well. The velvet curtains behind make an excellent backdrop. I would not have thought, but they do. The painting is very much the focal point as seen in that first photo. Wonderful too that so many people have worked together to make this come together. Well done!

    • Thank you Bev. The end of the chapel is formed by an organ loft and screen. The loft is painted a dull green, but the wooden panel beneath it, now hidden by the curtain, is rather gingery in colour, and the painting didn’t look good against it. What works well about this solution to the problem is that the curtain, though beautiful, doesn’t draw attention to itself. It just makes a rich field of darkness against which to hang the painting. And yes, it’s been a good team. I feel privileged to have been so well supported on this project. So many people giving generously of their time and skills.

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