Monthly Archives: December 2011

Painting Conservation

More on Cope’s ‘Martyrdom of Laurence Saunders at Coventry.’

This is a resumption of my blog after an interval when I was busy with exhibition work.

A little bit of history relating to the picture: Painted in 1851, the picture was exhibited in the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867. Another label on the reverse relates to an ‘Exhibition of Works of Art’ in Leeds the following year, 1868.

The triptych was previously displayed in the Council Chamber in Coventry Council House. It was taken down in January 2000 for the repainting of the Chamber and was placed in an anteroom. On closer examination it was decided that the condition of the picture was such that it would be advisable to remove it from display and it was subsequently moved to The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.

The picture had suffered much paint loss along the lower edges and other areas of paint were flaking and in danger of falling off. The reverse of the triptych had been damaged by the activities of a pigeon which according to reports had at one stage entered the Chamber and become trapped.

Emergency conservation carried out involved adhering a protective facing tissue onto the endangered areas of paint:

The damage to the reverse is shown here:

Label relating to Paris Exhibition on reverse of frame:

Jill Irving December 20th


Object of the Month – December 2011

Sampler by Mary Shipley, 1797Sampler by Mary Shipley, 1797

There are at least 60 samplers in the Herbert’s textile collection and this is a particularly beautiful example. As the Herbert has so many samplers and only a few in the galleries, we are starting a project to mount all the ones in store. This means they can be safely handled and much more easily displayed. Staff and a group of volunteers from NADFAS (National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies) were trained at the end of November and have started work on the project. A special mount padded and covered with acid free material has to be made before the sampler can be positioned and attached. With each mount taking about 2 hours to prepare and stitch the sampler to it, it may be some time before the project is finished!

Samplers began in the 1400s or 1500s as a way of remembering different types of stitches or patterns. Over time they evolved into a right of passage for young girls, proving their knowledge and patience. Ones like Mary’s – with an alphabet, picture, biblical verse and the girl’s name and date – are what most people imagine when they think of a sampler.

This sampler is has particularly fine embroidery in silk threads. Unfortunately with the fine background, delicate silk and existing damage, Mary’s sampler will not be able to be mounted as part of this project but will be kept safely in store as it is one of the nicest in the collection.

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