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.


Posted on 21/09/2011, in Collections, Conservation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Simon Carter

    Hi Jill, Saw the link to this posted on twitter. Did you know that the Palace of Westminster works of art collection has a large collection of preparatory sketches by Cope which it acquired about 6 years ago (while I worked there). They are mainly for the Cope frescoes in the House of Lords, but there were some for other paintings. You can see a small selection of them at
    but they have many more, if you contact the Curator’s office (under Collections Administration) I’m sure they’d be able to tell you if they recognised any studies for this painting – it certainly looks familiar to me. You might be interested just to look at his other work, and they’d be interested to know of this painting I’m sure.

    Kind regards
    Simon Carter, Director, Avoncroft Museum
    (MrAvoncroft on twitter)

    • Thanks for your response, Simon. I was aware that Cope had executed a series of murals (frescoes?) in the House of Lords. Very interesting to hear about the sketches – I didn’t know about them. I’ll follow up the link.

      Hope you enjoy the blog.

      Best wishes,


  1. Pingback: Painting Conservation « Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

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