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The National Gallery: Blazing More New Trails

Last year about this time, I praised the National Gallery in London for creating and publicizing an “Angel Trail” of artworks in its galleries that include portrayals of angels–for the Christmas season.

This year, I’m back to share the news that Christmas 2016 has prompted the creation of “The Star Trail.” The NG pitch:”Stargaze with us this Christmas.”


The NG create videos that take visitors on the trail: so far, there are four for “The Star Trail,” posted on the National Gallery’s YouTube channel.

Join National Gallery curators and experts as they discuss different representations of stars throughout the history of Western European art. Journey from the Renaissance to the night skies of the Impressionists through this one element: the star. New episodes weekly.

duccio-virgin-child-saints-dominic-aurea-ng566-r-two-thirdsSo far a short trailer and three short videos have been posted, featuring curators and experts not only from the National Gallery but also from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. They discuss the stars in paintings, like Duccio’s Virgin Mary (at left) and Tintoretto’s Origin of the Milky Way (below). They explain the depiction of instruments in paintings like Holbein’s Ambassadors. They venture into the archives for a look at stars in books and manuscripts.

At the end of each video, they list the names of the artworks that were cited and the artists.

I think these trails are brilliant, and I don’t understand why other museums haven’t followed the NG here. Of course, I know that many museums have specialized tours, but these trails can offer the opportunity to expose the collection and make links among various portrayals of one subject in a very inviting way.

You can print out some NG trails from its website; they are useful even if you can’t visit the National Gallery.




  1. “You’ve got to have a gimmick…. if you want to get ahead”!

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