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The Hand of God? Strange Phenomenon at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery
Surprised visitors say they have seen the reflection of a hand pointing directly at the Messiah in Mattia Preti’s 1660 work 'The Adoration of the Shepherds.'

LIVERPOOL.- A 350-year-old painting of the baby Jesus is at the centre of a bizarre optical illusion at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.

Surprised visitors say they have seen the reflection of a hand pointing directly at the Messiah in Mattia Preti’s 1660 work 'The Adoration of the Shepherds.' The painting depicts onlookers surrounding the holy child.

The strange phenomenon occurred when the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition opened last month. One of the works, 'THERE YOU ARE!' by Cornelia Baltes, features a large hand painted onto the walls of the Walker.

By some complete fluke this painted hand seems to have reflected through glass doors and onto the Preti painting – even though it’s in a completely different gallery.

Reyahn King, Director of Art Galleries, said: “This is an uncanny thing to have happened. We have a painting in the John Moores exhibition which is now reflecting onto another work in a separate gallery.

“It’s completely accidental and a bizarre coincidence that the hand seems to point at the baby Jesus. We’ve had lots of visitors to the John Moores show who have commented on this. Everyone is quite mystified.”

The show was curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal, who chose where the Cornelia Baltes painting was positioned. Cornelia then came to the Walker to paint the finger on the wall. Both Sir Norman and Cornelia would have had no idea that the work would reflect anywhere.

In another coincidence, the winning painting in this year’s John Moores Painting Prize is called 'Spectrum Jesus' by Keith Coventry. Depicting the face of Jesus Christ, 'Spectrum Jesus' is a blue monochromatic image, part of a series rendered in the palette and style of the German Expressionist Emil Nolde. The winning work was quickly labelled: “Blue Jesus” by sections of the media.

Spectrum Jesus has been acquired for the Walker Art Gallery’s permanent collections. The painting will now join the gallery’s impressive collection of British painting.

Reyahn King added: “We want people to see different or unexpected things when they come to the Walker. We particularly like it when people are moved to make their own meanings from what they see and, as in this case, when people in the gallery themselves spot surprising connections between works.”

Nearly 3,000 visitors came to see the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition on its opening weekend. Almost 800 postcards of paintings in the show have been sold.

More than half a century old, the John Moores Painting Prize is held every two years and is entered anonymously by UK based artists using paint. Previous winners include David Hockney and Peter Doig. This current John Moores exhibition features 45 works and runs until January 3.

Walker Art Gallery | Liverpool | The Hand of God? |

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