A foggy Friday morning at Knole saw another painting from the collection heading off to spend the summer on loan. This time it was the turn of Barbara Villiers’ portrait by Sir Peter Lely to travel to Hampton Court Palace where it will be displayed as part of the upcoming exhibition, ‘The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned’. This temporary exhibition will explore the lives and loves of those who bought excitement and scandal to the Stuart Court.
Usually hanging in the Spangled Dressing Room, the painting is used to experiencing large fluctuations in relative humidity so has spent several weeks in the Great Hall, one of very few rooms at Knole with conservation heating, acclimatising to a more stable environment which it can expect at Hampton Court.
Before leaving Knole, the painting was assessed for its suitability for travel by several conservators, including a painting specialist and a frame specialist. Despite the painting being in a very good condition, the frame was in a poor state of repair and some remedial conservation work was undertaken before the painting could travel safely. This work included stabilising the flaking gilt which was coming away to reveal the wooden frame beneath. Siobhan undertook one last condition check before the painting left the building. The report will be used when the painting reaches Hampton Court, to assess if any damage has occurred during the move.
The crate, weighing 229kg (over 35 stone!)
The painting was to be moved by a specialist removals company,Gander and White, who would pack the portrait and transport it to the exhibition. The crate in which it would travel was much too large and heavy to be carried into the Great Hall for packing so a temporary travelling frame was made so that the painting could be safely taken to the lorry and secured inside the crate.
The temporary travelling frame.
The first step was to make sure the travelling frame would be weather-proof so a polythene backing was added to the bare frame to keep out moisture.
Polythene being fixed to the back of the travelling frame.
A number of T brackets were fixed to the back of the portrait so that the painting could be secured in place within the temporary frame.
T plates being fixed on to the pack of the frame.
The painting was then screwed into the temporary frame and the team checked that it was securely fixed.
Cotton tapes were fixed across the front of the frame to brace another layer of polythene which would seal the painting inside and protect it from the elements.
The Gander and White team then took Barbara out to the lorry and secured her into the storage crate. The crate was lined with plastazote, an inert, foam like material into which the travelling frame was fitted. This would give some additional protection to the painting during transit. Once the lid was on the crate, it was moved into place and strapped to the side of the lorry, again for extra protection during the move.
Once the crate was strapped in place, the portrait was at last ready to go! You can see Barbara Villiers at ‘The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned’ Exhibition at Hampton Court Palace from 5th April to 30th September 2012.
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