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Celebrate the festive season at the National Gallery and take part in our 'gold' themed activities and events

Issued November 2017

17 November 2017 – 1 January 2018

This year, we invite visitors to celebrate the holidays by joining us to explore the scintillating presence of gold throughout the collection.

Gold christmas at the National Gallery

Start your visit in the Sainsbury Wing to view early Renaissance pictures in which gold backgrounds were applied to panels as an extremely thin sheet of beaten metal, known as leaf. In the low-light conditions found particularly in churches, these backgrounds shimmered in candlelight, creating effects to evoke transcendence and spirituality. Their surfaces could be further embellished with patterns, punches, and stamps. Elsewhere in the Gallery gold leaf continues to be used for frames.

When artists stopped using actual gold, they continued to capture its effects in oil paint in the depiction of golden objects: glittering jewellery, extravagant fabrics, and golden gifts all feature in the stories told by our paintings.

From 17 November until 1 January 2018, visitors are invited to share their favourite gold artwork on social media using the hashtag #ArtGold. Once at the National Gallery, Snapchat users can give selfies an Old-Master sparkle with a National Gallery inspired gold-frame filter.

Special labels displayed from 1 December will adorn the walls of the National Gallery to highlight the 'GOLDEN facts' about specific paintings, and a series of online films will provide a more in-depth exploration of the use of gold in art.


Free lunchtime talks
Gossaert's The Adoration of the Kings
Wednesday 6 December. Location: Room 14. Time: 1–1.30pm

Crivelli’s The Annunciation with Saint Emidius
Wednesday 13 December. Location: Room 59. Time: 1–1.30pm

Poussin's The Adoration of the Golden Calf
Wednesday 20 December. Location: Room 29. Time: 1–1.30pm

Life drawing salon: Tutored life drawing classes exploring different themes.

The Wilton Diptych and patterned gold
Friday 8 December. Location: Pigott Education Centre (Rooms 2&3)
Time: 6.30–8.30pm
Tickets: £16/£15 conc./£14 Members
Experiment with gold leaf and gold-coloured drawing tools in a life drawing workshop inspired by 'The Wilton Diptych'.

Heavenly gold: 'The Wilton Diptych' in intaglio
Saturday 16 December
Location: Pigott Education Centre (Rooms 2&3)
Time: 10.30am–1pm    
Tickets: £78/£68 conc./£62 Members
Discover the traditional intaglio printmaking technique of drypoint as you design and make your own shimmering, golden prints inspired by 'The Wilton Diptych'. Combining close observation of the painting with your own creative ideas, you will translate motifs from the painting into print using etching needles, ink, liquid gold, and a printing press. No experience necessary. Limited to 12 places.

Family holiday events over Christmas

How’s my halo?
Wednesday 27 – Friday 29 December. Location: Meet in Room 59.
Time: 11am–1pm & 2–4pm (drop-in)
Create your own magnificent halo inspired by Cione’s Adoring Saints altarpiece and other radiating crowns found in the Gallery’s Renaissance paintings.


Talk and draw
Friday 8 and 15 December.
Location: Room 52. Time: 1–2pm.
Jacopo di Cione and workshop, The Coronation of the Virgin: Central Main Tier Panel
Spaces are limited to 40 people on a first come, first served basis.


View at

Gold in paintings (24 November 2017)
This film explores the different techniques used by artists to apply gold and their reasons for doing so. Interviews with members of staff from the Scientific and Conservation departments reveal how the scientific analysis of paintings can shed light on the type of pigments used. The techniques for gilding and the use of punches to create a richly textured gold ground are explored in 'The Wilton Diptych'; Three Saints by Stephan Lochner; and 'The San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece' by Jacopo di Cione and workshop.

Framing gold (1 December 2017)
This film offers an opportunity to go behind the scenes of the Gallery’s Framing department and includes demonstrations of gold leaf application. The frames of The Raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano del Piombo, Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?) by Jan van Eyck, and a round Florentine painting, The Virgin and Child with Saints, are discussed.

Dressed in gold (8 December 2017)
When not used to create richly textured backgrounds or gilded frames, gold was often featured in the clothing of the sitter; in jewellery, crowns, and other luxurious objects. Interviews with curators from the V&A and the National Gallery reveal how artists such as Rembrandt, Bellini, Moroni, and Van Dyck portrayed sitters wearing gold to convey their power, wealth, and accomplishments, and to demonstrate their skills.

Stories of gold (15 December 2017)
In the National Gallery there are many paintings representing stories of golden objects throughout the ages. From the Christmas gifts of the Three Kings to Venus’ golden apple, this film explores spectacular narrative paintings by Rubens, Macchietti, Foppa, and Bruegel in which golden objects appear.

For further information, please contact the National Gallery Press Office
on 020 7747 2865 or email

For public enquiries, please contact 020 7747 2885