Sophie Stewart, Paine and Stewart

21 June 2017

Conservation is now nearing completion in the Vestibule, the first space you enter beneath the Painted Hall dome. This has been a tremendous achievement by the conservators who have painstakingly cleaned and repaired of all the decorative elements from the top of the dome down to ground level. Decades of dirt and grime have been removed which has dramatically improved the appearance of all areas, especially areas of gilding.  

Vestibule scaffolding being erected at the start of the Painted Hall Project

The Vestibule scaffold as it went up

Valentina Gatto works on the gilding in the vestibule of the Painted Hall

Conservator Valentina Gatto cleans the gilding on one of the carved column capitals

The iconography of the painted scheme in the dome is now much clearer. This area shows a representation of the four winds - Eurus (the East Wind), Auster (the South Wind), Zephyrus (the West Wind) and Boreas (the North Wind). The paintings are executed in a ‘brunaille’ technique, that is, when a painting is executed entirely or primarily in shades of brown.

One of the North Wind’s companions clutching a lightning bolt, before and after conservation

At the same time, high resolution photogrammetric imaging of the Vestibule dome and Lower Hall ceiling has been undertaken by Sam Whittaker. This provides a fabulous record of the paintings in close detail. Images were captured in visible (red, green and blue) light and infrared (IR, 830nm) radiation to create high resolution orthomosaic images using a photogrammetric software package. Each orthomosaic is built from approximately 300 images, contains millions and millions of pixels and is over a gigabyte in file size. The orthomosaic is a perspectival-distortion free map of the surface of the paintings in visible and infrared that can be used to investigate the paintings, revealing aspects of original technique and condition.

The dome of the Painted Hall

View of the Painted Hall dome after conservation showing the four winds

Further examination of the paintings in ultra-violet light is also proving very useful at establishing how the paintings have been restored over the centuries. Viewing the paintings under ultra-violet light can show up earlier retouchings or repairs because the materials used often fluoresce differently. For example, under UV examination older retouchings are often seen as dark purple patches scattered over the surface.

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