Monthly Archives: September 2011

Painting Conservation

After my last blog which featured Frederick Jackson’s ‘Boats on the Shore’ currently on display for the first time in our accessible store ‘What’s In Store’ I thought I would focus on two works currently undergoing conservation. The works are quite different in subject matter and in scale. This is a brief introduction to two very different pictures!

The first work is the right hand part of a triptych entitled ‘The Martyrdom of Laurence Saunders at Coventry’ by the artist Charles West Cope (1811 – 1890). The frame size is just over four feet in height by just under 10 feet in width (more accurately 124cms x 301cms).

The picture is dated to 1851 and the three pictures that make up the triptych (medium, oil on canvas) depict from left to right: (1) A woman and child at a prison gate; (2) Saunders in his prison cell taking leave of the child and (3) (the painting currently undergoing work) Saunders being led to execution in Coventry. This image can be viewed on the Public Catalogue Foundation’s website. More on the subject matter, this picture – and what happened to it in the next blog.

The picture placed face up on the conservation table. The tissue paper is ’emergency’ treatment to prevent further paint loss in fragile areas on the lower part.

The second much smaller picture ‘Henry V’ (see image below) – artist unknown –  is something of a curiosity as we do not have a great deal of information on it. According to our records it is presumed to be a ‘restorer’s’ early replacement of the original commissioned for 5d in 1474. Our picture has been dated c. 1850-1920. The medium is oil on wood panel. There are two test cleans visible left and right, carried out some time in the past. We know that the picture was transferred to The Herbert Art Gallery from St Mary’s Hall before 1974. The picture is being cleaned prior to loan back to St Mary’s Hall. It is approximately 36.5cms x 30cms unframed and the subject is portrayed in profile.

More next time on the removal of surface dirt and/or discoloured varnish and to see if any hidden details emerge.


Patchwork Weather – a poem by Fraser


 (Click on the images to see Fraser’s handwritten original)

Patchwork Weather

It’s a strange mixture
It’s all stitched together
Patchwork like spectrums
Of opposite weather

It’s rainy one moment
It’s sunny the next
(Hexagonal sunbursts
on a lonely, dark bed)

It’s foggy, it’s breezy
Its wadding is dull
Then, hemmed at the edges,
Bright blocks of the quilt!

This rushes over
The yellowing sky
Spikes of new daybreak
As the new layers tied

Then, it changes.

It goes crazy
It goes like crazy patchwork
It’s like this….








(not Amish…)

It’s sleety, it’s hailing
It’s blizzards, it’s bad
A cyclone of colour
The deadliest patch

It’s sunny one moment
It’s rainy the next
(The cyclone drifts over
a lonely, lost thread)

Yes, it’s a mixture
All forming together
Patchwork constellations
Of opposite weather

With no real pattern
Of wet and dry
I think I’d rather
Stay inside.


Back to the Belgrade

Object of the Month – September 2011

Stone mould

This object on display in the History Gallery is a stone mould for casting a small figure, possibly that of a saint. During the 1400s Coventry was a thriving city with many trades including metal casting.

This unique object is one part of a three-piece mould used to cast a pewter devotional figure. The figure would have been made hollow to act as a container or reliquary. It’s likely this was a souvenir of a visit perhaps by someone on pilgrimage. Pilgrims visited Coventry because the Cathedral held relics including a fragment of the true cross and the arm of St. Augustine of Hippo.

On the reverse side is part of a heraldic motif for a badge or belt fitting with crowns and quatrefoil design. This is evidence of secondary usage as the stone was expensive to quarry and carving a mould’s design must have taken a day or even two. The stone probably came from around Southam and Long Itchington about 15 miles from Coventry.

Coventry holds over 200 stone moulds from archaeological sites all over the city centre. These demonstrate a vibrant industry which supported both religious and secular visitors during the late medieval and early Tudor times. There is a selection of these interesting objects on display in the History Gallery.


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