January 2015

Specialists complete work on condition survey which is the starting point for the conservation of the Lower Hall. 

Conservators were able to examine the lower hall ceiling up-close for the first time in over half a century. A special 90ft cherry picker gave access to an area of the paintings that demonstrated the full range of issues facing the conservation scheme.

The paintings were examined extremely closely, using a range of imaging techniques. A 200 magnification hand-held USB microscope exposed fine cracks in the varnish layer.

“The plaster ground is in a sound state but many darker passages suffer from a characteristic blanching, as well as a surface bloom across many highlights,” said wall painting conservator Stephen Paine. “There is also a surface layer of 50 years’ accumulated dust and grime, which disfigures and obscures much of the scheme. Together, these phenomena significantly suppress Thornhill’s original exuberance of colour.”

Around 50 paint samples will be analysed scientifically, using a range of optical tools. Some discreet cleaning trials will also be undertaken to identify the most appropriate conservation methods.

BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz was on site to report on the last day of the survey, you can view his film here.

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