Regilding the lily

One of a set of torcheres bearing candelabra in the Great Room at Saltram. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The current issue of ABC Bulletin features an article by Sue Baumbach about the conservation of a group of four torcheres at Saltram, in Devon. I have just discovered that we have some images of them being worked on, so I thought I would show those here.

The torcheres being treated at Tankerdale. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As Sue relates, the candelabra were ordered by Theresa Parker from Boulton & Fothergill in 1771 for the Great Room at Saltram. They have central urns made of the rare mineral Blue John, or Derbyshire fluorspar.

Working on one of the ram's heads. ©NTPL/John Hammond

There is no record of the purchase of the tocheres. They may have been designed by Robert Adam together with the rest of the decoration of the room.

However, it is also possible that they were the quartet of similar-sounding torcheres that were sold in the house sale of a property in Portman Square in London in 1778. These were bought by a Mr Sturt, whose name also appears in the Saltram accounts at around that time, but the evidence is not conclusive.

Injecting the woodworm holes. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The torcheres had become unstable due to previous pest infestations, and they have recently been treated at the workshop of Tankerdale Ltd.

Re-gilding the base of one of the torcheres. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Analysis of the gilding undertaken by Catherine Hassall showed that the torcheres had only been re-gilded once before, in the late nineteenth century.

The 1897 inscription on the inside of one of the torcheres, with the contemporary business directory that lists the Harris firm. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This probably relates to the inscription found within one of the torcheres, which reads ‘Bellamy, Apprentice, H & Sons, April 1897. Repard [sic] by James Street, April 1897. From Harris & Sons, George Street.’

A contemporary business directory records that Harris & Sons was a Plymouth company of ‘art decorators, house painters, gilders, picture dealers, artists’ colourmen and stationers’.

One of the torcheres with its candelabra, in a corner of the Great Room. Since this photograph was taken, the torcheres have been moved to more prominent positions in the room, in line with Robert Adam's original arrangement. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The 1897 re-gilding was probably part of the redecorations carried out by Albert Edmond Parker, 3rd Earl of Morley, who had married an heiress and moved back to Saltram after the house had been let to tenants for a number of years.

9 Responses to “Regilding the lily”

  1. Barbara Says:

    These process postings may be my favorites. Thank you.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes conservation projects are a ‘way in’ into what could otherwise be a rather forbidding subject, aren’t they?
    The National Trust’s conservators are increasingly trying to do their work in front of the visitors. That means building in time to answer questions and chat to the visitors, but it seems to be worth it.

  3. Barbara Says:

    Putting a person in the labeled box usually makes the box more appealing.

  4. littleaugury Says:

    I always enjoyed watching, and trying my hand at gilding when my decorative painter worked with it. Of course, nothing else would do for the NT, but far too often substitutes on the supposedly finest reproductions and repairs are used. The second photograph is NT publication worthy! indeed- the skill, detail, and the scale of the torcheres. thanks Emile for the continued excellent information and delight of your posts, Gaye

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Lucky you, being able to employ and work with such craftsmen! The sheets of gold are so thin and difficult to handle, I have great admiration for their skill.

  6. Karena Says:

    Emile, truly fascinating to see this process of restoration. The gilding iso so difficult to work with….the best of the best on the job there.

    Karena
    Art by Karena

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Karena, hopefully it will be a little while before we have to treat them again!

  8. Janet Says:

    It is amazing to see this post, following on the heels of a weekend visit with a conservator in Philadelphia who is doing work on the woodwork in a house there. Not gilding, but replacing missing carved pieces. These amazing conservators are artists in their own right.

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes Janet I agree, we should celebrate their work more.

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