It is now over a month since the doors of the Painted Hall closed for conservation, and the Painted Hall Project is progressing well. The complex scaffold in the vestibule that will support the observation deck is rocketing upwards, the floor has been given a protective covering, and considerable repairs have been made to the Hall’s wooden fittings.



Whilst work continues to progress in the Lower Hall, it’s up to conservator Francesco Roselini to clean areas of wall that were left unfinished during the conservation of the Upper Hall in 2012-2013. His efforts have been concentrated on the walls flanking the great proscenium arch which separates the space from the Lower Hall. Mythological scenes painted in grisaille – a monotone technique of painting designed to look like sculpture – decorate these walls.



Cleaning these paintings is a delicate and time-consuming task, Swabs of cotton wool, dipped in a cleaning solution, are gently applied to the wall, removing layers of dirt and grime that have built up on the surface.



The results have been astounding. A blanching, reflective layer of dirt has been removed, bringing out the vibrancy of the colours beneath. Although ostensibly monotonous and two-colour, cleaning has revealed an array of greys, rich browns, and ochres, with highlighting in a fine cross-hatching akin to that of contemporary engravings in Sir James Thornhill’s day.



Removing the grime has also revealed the brush strokes, allowing for a more detailed examination of the technique of the artist and his workshop. The fine, regular hatching of the highlights contrasts with looser brush strokes in the darker areas, creating a work of both fine detail and painterly expression.


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