Yesterday Sara Stoll, a National Trust Frame Conservator, visited Upton to have a look at one of our paintings before it went on exhibition. She spent a few hours looking at the Memling off the wall, conserving the beautiful frame and carrying out some more general maintenance to the shadow box, before we hung it back on the wall again.
First of all Sara consolidated the losses to the gilding and gesso of the frame using a special glue, and applied this to the frame using a small brush to prevent further losses. She then retouched it with watercolour where you could see the wood or the white gesso, so it blended in. There were also a few scattered losses around the side of the frame which she has secured again. Sara also looked at the glass fixing to the Memling of the shadow box, and secured this.
The part I found most interesting though, was a chance to see the back of the painting. Earlier in the year we turned 6 of our paintings round in an exhibition called Backs to the Future, and we learnt so much about what the back of a painting can tell us. Since to Memling is in a shadow box, we previously haven’t been able to see the labels. So, what did she find?
Here you can see exhibition labels to show where the painting has been. You can also see a label from James Bourlet & sons, which was particularly interested as several of our paintings have these labels on. James Bourlet & Sons were, and still are, fine art packers and frame makers. Sara imagines that the they fitted the shadow box to the Memling, to protect the small and vulnerable frame. Previously these labels were loose in the back of the painting, so Sara has put them in place so they are now secure.
One of our favourite things to find is Lord Bearsted’s name on the back of the painting. This always makes it so personal, and is a reminder that he collected these beautiful paintings we see and still care for today as a collection.
Once Sara had finished looking at the frame, it was time to hang the painting again where it belongs in our Picture Gallery. This week it will go off on exhibition to Rome! You can find out more here, until the end of January 2015.