THIS 1864 watercolour by Frederick William Burton – Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs - in the collection of the National Gallery has just been voted Ireland’s favourite painting. It is based on a medieval Danish ballad. Hellelil fell in love with Hildebrand, one of her personal guards. Her father orders his seven sons to kill him. Hildebrand kills her father and six brothers before Hellelil intervenes to save the youngest. Hildebrand dies from his wounds and Hellelil dies shortly afterwards. The artist’s interpretation of the story is centred on their parting on the turret stairs. It leaves the reason to the imagination of the viewer.
Since the competition began five weeks ago the National Gallery recorded an increase in visitor figures, up 20,000 on the same period last year. The other works on the shortlist were: Communicating with Prisoners, Jack B. Yeats (The Model, Sligo); A Family , Louis Le Brocquy (National Gallery); Lady Writing a Letter Johannes Vermeer (National Gallery); The Eve of Saint Agnes Harry Clarke (Hugh Lane/Crawford); The Artist’s Studio Sir John Lavery (National Gallery, Ulster Museum); A Convent Garden, Brittany , William John Leech (National Gallery); Wall of Light Orange Yellow, Sean Scully (Hugh Lane); A Connemara Village, Paul Henry (National Gallery/Connemara) and The Taking of Christ, Caravaggio (National Gallery).