This week has been very busy in the Mansion as we prepare to open on Saturday. The Roof Project is really getting going, with the scaffolding now up and ready to go.
Crown Fine Arts have been back for one day only and are putting some of the larger paintings back into the Picture Gallery. These paintings have been stored in the Entrance Hall for the past month but can now go back so that they can be seen up close by visitors.
Having the internal scaffolding in the Picture Gallery has given the team a really good opportunity to get up close to the decoration at the top of the space for the first time. Yesterday and today our Curator Sarah Kay and a team of experts have scaled the scaffolding to have a look, and what they have initially found is very exciting!
Firstly, being so close to the decoration you can see the amount of damage (and dirt) which has occurred over the years. There are cracks in the walls, missing pieces of gilding, and lost elements of the decorated cast-iron frame. You can also really see the flaking, cracking and bubbling of the paint and plaster on the ceiling bed. Douglas from Cliveden Conservation has been painstakingly plotting the areas of damage that can be seen.
At this level you can see how delicate some of the panes of glass are. During investigations one already cracked pane fell out!
Decorations Specialist James Finlay has also been looking closely at the ceiling to see if the current layers of paint are covering any decoration beneath. The main suspicion that there could once have been more decoration on the ceiling than we see today comes from a watercolour painting which was done in the mid 1800s. This picture shows the ceiling divided into three bays by a guilloche pattern border, but today the border is just a single bay around the whole space. Well… today traces of an earlier decorative scheme have been found under raking light and so it could possibly be this design.
Most exciting of all however, Sarah spotted some initials and a date engraved onto the top surface of one of the scagliola pilasters, “IN 1808”. Could this possibly be John Nash 1808?? We don’t know! It really could have been anyone or done at a later date, and it’s very unlikely he put the carving there himself but it’s a very exciting and interesting discovery!
A possible signature, broken glass, an older decorative scheme and a lot of damage surveyed all in one afternoon! It just goes to show what can happen when you spend some time up on the roof… well just under it anyway!