The search for answers about a mysteriously rediscovered painting that inspired our groundbreaking Summer 2018 exhibition “The Von Wagner Code” continues in a smaller-scale, long-term installation of the show in our Study Gallery. The damaged, long-lost painting at the center of the exhibit was found on the Florida Southern College campus in 2016 and had been forgotten for over sixty years.
Once thought to date from 17th-century Italy, according to papers believed to be tied to the work at the time of its gift to the College, the painting is now realized to be a version of the famed 19th-century masterpiece “The Chariot Race” by the Hungarian artist Alexander von Wagner. Gifted to the College most likely in the 1940s, this newly-stabilized artwork serves as the visual centerpiece for an installation updated with the most recent discoveries and thematically focused on the surprising history and cultural influence of the painting (including upon the movie “Ben Hur”), the complex story of its vanishing, rediscovery, and eventual reattribution in 2018, and the critical importance of the conservation process in preserving artistic treasures. The twists and turns of the painting’s back-story seem never-ending. Indeed, it was only at the end of the main gallery version of the exhibition that we verified the painting’s true name and artist. Can you help solve The Von Wagner Code?