October 2015 | Fiona Karn-Smith

Over the past few days a temporary tower scaffold has been put up in the Painted Hall. This is to allow our specialist conservators Stephen Paine and Sophie Stewart to undertake trial conservation works to the paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Painted Hall. This work will help us to better understand the condition of the paintings ahead of the major Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded conservation project due to begin in 2016. In particular the trials will reveal the nature of the historic varnish layers applied to the paintings and the most appropriate conservation methods to address the issue of ‘blanching’.

Blanching is the term used to describe the unsightly white ‘veil’ or sheen over certain areas of the paintings. This is caused by the fine cracking and lifting of existing layers of varnish. Blanching is particularly visible on the ceiling and window reveals of the Lower Hall.


Above: Blanching on the ceiling of the Painted Hall

Four trial areas, each measuring 50 x 50cm, have been chosen within the Lower Hall (walls and ceiling). On each area the conservators will test various cleaning and conservation methods, ranging from a light cleaning to the removal and replacement of the existing varnish layers. This will allow us to judge the effectiveness of these processes, how practical they are to carry out, and, importantly, how they will look when finished.

Once we have judged the success of these trials a larger ‘exemplar’ area will be prepared. If this works well it will form the basis of the approach to the whole conservation project which is planned to run from 2016-2019.

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