Georges de la Tour was a one trick pony, albeit a well executed and emotive trick. Every one of his figures, from Saint Sebastian to The Choirboy, is a limpid, self-absorbed waxwork caught in the flare of firelight, their face masklike and androgynous, their sensuality knowing yet somehow eerily bland compared to the rough and hairy dynamism of la Tour's near-contemporary Caravaggio.
Compton Verney is the perfect place to exhibit them. A 1760s country mansion meticulously restored and resurrected as an art gallery by the Peter Moores Foundation, it's smooth, milky stone and carefuly considered beauty are inexplicably and undeniably sinister, as the League of Gentlemen name suggests.
It is an aura only intensified by the surreal, provocative programming; my first visit was to see Peter Greenaway's 2004 Luper, a bizarre anthropology of the life and travels of his semi-fictional alter-ego, Tulse Luper, through the contents of his 92 suitcases. Indeed, those barmy bags evoked fond memories of my own cultural crusades, filled as they were with such expeditionary essentials as Vatican pornography, obelisks, bloodied wallpaper and coal.
Compton Verney's inventiveness holds true in the pairing of la Tour with The Shadow, an itinerant exhibition devised by the Italian acadmeic Lea Virgine. From Laurie Anderson's Lilliputian monologuing hologram, to Mona Hatoum's bronze lantern projecting flickering scenes of warfare like a neocon nightlight, it is a magnificent macabre mindfuck.