Renovating a kitchen is one of the most exciting events a homeowner can undertake…especially when in the process a 400-year-old mural is discovered on the wall behind your old cupboards.
On Micklegate, a street in the ancient northern England city of York, contractors uncovered a biblically themed fresco behind a wall while installing new cupboards in an apartment as part of a renovation project, according to CNN.
Then they did what any responsible contractor would do—snap a picture, call their client, and say, “did you know there’s a painting behind here?” And of course, install the new cupboards.
The apartments owner, Luke Budworth, was “disappointed” that the contractors recovered the mysterious painting, the report said, but “suspected that a similar ‘bit of paneling’ on the other side of the open plan living area may be hiding something too.”
He was right. Behind that paneling was a matching fresco that measured 9 feet by 4 feet, though the topmost section was cut off by the ceiling.
The scene features a man in a cage which is being dragged by an angel and another man in a white cart who “looks like he’s riding to the kingdom of heaven,” Budworth told CNN. Following the discovery, Budworth contacted Historic England, a public institution that, according to their website, “looks after England’s historic environment.”
“This was a total and complete surprise,” Budworth told ARTnews. “I knew we lived in an old building (ca. 1747) on an old street (ca. roman era) and within the city walls of an ancient city, so it is not totally unprecedented, but to have history like that inside the flat was a massive shock.”
Historic England visited the apartment to survey and document the paintings, then passed the images on to the Conservation of Wall Painting department at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art. They also advised Budworth and his partner, Hazel Mooney, to recover the fresco “in order to preserve it,” and gave the couple a life-sized photographic replica of the work.
Budworth, who works as a research data analyst at the University of Leeds, decided to do some digging and learned that the both works featured scenes from Emblems, a book first published in 1635, written by the poet Francis Quarles.
Budworth told CNN that through internet research he learned that the artwork had been executed on the wall of a building that was once connected to his, but that no longer exists. According to Historic England, the works were made between 1635 when Emblems was first published and 1700, “when such artwork fell out of fashion.”
According to Budworth, since the story was first reported, an “expert conservator” from University College London has reached out with a tentative offer to assist in writing a report about the newly discovered paintings and provide further advice on next steps.
“University College London – one of the UK’s best universities, and I’m not just saying that because I did masters there,” Budworth told ARTnews.