Renaissance masterpiece unveiled

Lavinia Fontana's painting after conservation treatment.
Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Renaissance masterpiece unveiled at National Gallery of Ireland following conservation project.

The conservation of this Renaissance masterpiece painting by Lavinia Fontana was supported by Bank of America.

Following an eighteen-month conservation and research project generously supported by Bank of America, Lavinia Fontana’s celebrated painting The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon was today unveiled at the National Gallery of Ireland. Part of the Gallery’s permanent collection, it is the largest surviving painting by one of the most renowned woman artists of the Renaissance. Funding for the conservation of this artwork was generously provided through a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project.

Lavinia Fontana was one of the most successful female painters in the history of Western art. The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon is widely recognised as Fontana’s most ambitious painting. On the occasion of the unveiling, the Gallery is delighted to also announce Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker – a large-scale exhibition opening in the Gallery’s Beit Wing in May 2023. Exploring the artist’s extraordinary life through her paintings and drawings, it will be the first monographic exhibition of Fontana’s work in over two decades. 

The conservation treatment of The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon addressed structural issues as well as aesthetic ones. Research into the artist’s materials and techniques revealed fascinating details about the painting and its production. Cracking and instability in the over 400-year-old structure has been arrested so that the painting can be safely displayed and enjoyed for generations to come. After the painstaking removal of layers of dull and yellow varnish, many previously obscured details were uncovered during the conservation treatment. This included an inscription, dated 1599, on the base of an ornamental clock held by one of the figures in the composition. Scientific analysis has identified the pigments Fontana used and given new insights into her workshop practice.

Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, commented: “A firm favourite with our visitors, Lavinia Fontana’s striking painting has been a highlight of the Gallery’s collection since its acquisition in 1872. It has been a joy to undertake this remarkable conservation project which has captured the imagination of the public. This complex process would not have happened without the extraordinary generosity of Bank of America, and we thank them for their support. We are happy to return the painting to display once again here today – more resplendent than ever.”

Simone Mancini, Head of Conservation at the National Gallery of Ireland, commented: “During this project, Gallery conservators had the opportunity to preserve and enhance this painting’s unique history, undertaking a new campaign of treatments and successfully completing a complex and daunting project with exceptional skill and intense dedication. With this project the National Gallery of Ireland has further developed interdisciplinary cooperation with conservation institutes, museums and research laboratories in Ireland and internationally as well as sharing skills and developing innovative conservation practises in line with the essence of modern conservation intended as a truly holistic discipline.”

Fernando Vicario, CEO, Bank of America Europe DAC and Country Manager of Bank of America Ireland said: “It is a privilege to partner with the National Gallery of Ireland to conserve this cultural treasure. We firmly believe in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies and create greater cultural understanding. Through our Arts Conservation Project, we have supported the conservation of over 5,000 individual pieces of art through 195 projects in 36 countries since the program launched in 2010. We hope that this restoration will enable many visitors to experience and enjoy the piece in Ireland for many more years to come.”

Now on display in the Gallery’s iconic Shaw Room, The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Irish artist Daniel Maclise was a work previously restored thanks to grant funding from the Bank America Art Conservation Project. 

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon by Lavinia Fontana is on display in Room 27 at the National Gallery of Ireland, as part of the permanent collection. Entry to the permanent collection is free. A publication detailing the fascinating discoveries made during the conservation and research project is available in the Gallery Shop. Find out more at


Media contact:
Kate O’Leary, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / 087 334 1587 

Notes to Editor
•    Images are available on request. 
•    Representatives of the National Gallery of Ireland are available for interview, including Director Sean Rainbird and members of the Conservation and Curatorial teams.
•    Representatives of Bank of America are available for interview.

Visitor information at the National Gallery of Ireland: 
All visitors must book a free ticket for entry to the Gallery. Entry via Merrion Square only: a one-way system is in place. Current exhibitions include Jack B. Yeats: Painting & Memory. Opening hours: Mon: 11am-5.30pm / Tues to Sat: 9.45am – 5.30pm / Sun: 11.30am – 5.30pm 
About the National Gallery of Ireland: 
The National Gallery of Ireland is one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions housing the nation’s collection of European and Irish art from about 1300 to the present day, and an extensive Library & Archive. Entry to the collection is free for all to enjoy, learn and be inspired. 

Bank of America Arts and Culture:
The Bank of America Art Conservation Project is a key demonstration of Bank of America’s arts support worldwide, and part of the company’s environmental, social and governance commitment. Through the Art Conservation Project, programs like Museums on Us®, loaning exhibitions through the Art in Our Communities program, the Masterpiece Moment video series and sponsorships and grants, we support a wide range of both local and world-class organizations. Our programs are designed to have a positive impact on economies and societies throughout the world, and shine a light on diverse cultural traditions. Through steadfast and strategic support, we have become one of the world’s leading corporate supporters of the arts. To learn more about our arts and culture support and programs, please visit

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