Category Archives: Paintings

‘Back to it…’

We had the chance to visit nearby Newark Park recently, to catch up with Jenny Rogers and Dyrham ‘man-Friday’ James Curwen, to talk some conservation shop. This was my first chance to see the inside the property, and it was an informative time, discussing conservation issues at a different property, with a different collection. House volunteer and mercenary-archaeologist for hire Mr. Tim Robey,  paid a visit for some book conservation experience so we continued work on the books in the Great Hall. This was a good chance to put my training into practice and help show Tim the ropes of do’s and don’t’s when inspecting and cleaning books. As most of the volumes are not in English, Tim’s ‘rusty but unique’ translation skills, (his words not mine.) made for an interesting conservation session. A highlight of which was a copy of ‘Salmon’s English Herbal’. This a beautiful book with some exquisite illustrations and very ‘interesting recipes and uses’… For legal reasons, not to be tried at home…


‘Beware the agents!’

One of the most threatening ‘agents of deterioration’ for a painting is incorrect Room Humidity. If the RH is too high, it can cause a dramatic effect to the canvas, and can cause it to deform or sag at the bottom. (No-one wants a saggy bottom…) This can also contribute to the corrosion of metalwork such as hanging chains, nails and hooks.
If the RH is too low, the canvas can shrink and cause the painting surface to crack, so you can imagine how a painting can be easily damaged by being kept at different RH levels as the organic elements try to cope with the changes. This was evident on closer inspection of the Jesuit Church painting, but nothing to be too concerned with. Phew. The frame had an extra inspection when put back together, as a piece of the frame moulding had detached and is getting a cunning repair. This is done by taking a cast of the intact design in clay, and making a replacement using a secret recipe. All in all a fascinating inspection, trying to guess the ‘what when & why’ of every blemish – if only paintings could talk!

‘Up close and personal…’

With the canvas out of the frame we had all our suspicions confirmed as to the history of the framing. When you study the painting, it doesn’t look completely central in its frame, (something my O.C.D picked up on straight away!) and on close inspection it is evident that the original painted canvas has been attached to another canvas and that has then been framed. It’s anyone’s guess why this would have happened but could be anything from it being cut out of the old frame to sustaining damage somehow. There is also another suspicious area that looks like a repair or addition to the canvas.

‘Return of the Jesuit…’

Sounds like the title of a bad low-budget movie, but just before the Christmas break our ‘Façade of a Jesuit Church’ painting made it’s triumphant return to Dyrham from Antwerp. It was good to see it back again and also a good opportunity to book in a visit from a painting conservator. ( Like a spa-day and manicure for paintings…) Conservators Kate and Yvonne arrived with all the tools of the trade, and set to work.

The First task was to prepare a work table to rest the painting on face down, to remove the Melonex. ( A protective backing.. not an ex-melon) After padding the table with sheets and blankets to protect the surface of the frame, the real work could begin. Firstly, the nails and corks had to be removed that support the painting in its frame, then the task of removing the painting from the frame so both could be treated safely. With cotton gloves on, the painting was gently lifted out and moved over to rest against the wall. The attention then moved to the frame and to replace the corks with thin strips of balsa wood and foam, tacked into place along with metal strips that will serve as a support to the canvas.