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"Rarest" medieval panel painting saved by recycling

A newly-restored "rare" medieval panel painting survived the Reformation because it was "recycled" in the 16th Century, conservators believe. The Kiss of Judas was painted in about 1460 in "vibrant medieval colours".

It was sold to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 2012 by a Northamptonshire church using the funds for its restoration. "Faint traces" of 16th Century writing were discovered on its back during conservation work. Thousands of church paintings were destroyed during the Reformation, making this "one of the rarest artworks of its type". The words are thought to be the 10 Commandments, "typical of a Protestant church furnishing" in the later Tudor period.

The panel measures 5ft 6in by 2ft 4in (1.73m by 74cm) and the discovery of writing on the back suggests the "offending" Catholic image was turned around and its back converted into a painted board.

Layers of surface dirt, bat faeces and varnish were removed and the wood protected from insect damage.