Bridgwater - St Mary's - Painting
This painting can be found in St Mary’s Church Bridgwater, Somerset. The artist of the painting is unknown and the story of the painting’s arrival in Bridgwater is told in The King’s England volume, by Arthur Mee, on Somerset first published in 1941, as follows;
“So rich a church should have a treasure at its altar, and the altar of St Mary’s is a treasure indeed. It is a great French master’s conception of the Descent from the Cross, so big it covers up the east window as far as the tracery, and so fine that it is said that Sir Joshua Reynolds broke his long coach journeys between London and Plymouth to sit and look at it. The picture shows Our Lord at the foot of the Cross with St John bending over Him, the Madonna is supported in the arms of a friend and Mary Magdalene standing by. It brings before us the pity and pathos of Calvary and these five figures are the work of a very great master. Nobody knows who the artist is but the picture is apparently 17th century.
What we do know of it is that it came here in a curious way, for it is a work of art of strange adventures. During the French Revolution one of our men-of-war ran down a Spanish privateer bound for San Domingo and this picture was on board. It was brought to England and Lord Anne Poulett (so oddly named because he was a godson of Queen Anne) obtained it and gave it to Bridgwater. It is said his gift was not appreciated and that it remained unpacked for two years, but in the end found its way to St Mary’s and is without rival as an altarpiece in Somerset.”