Archive for the ‘Murals’ Category

Rooms present and rooms past

June 13, 2013
The Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The colleagues at Hanbury Hall are gearing up for the final phase of the restoration of the mural paintings created by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734). I have previously mentioned the complex work on the murals in the Painted Staircase.

Portrait of Thomas Vernon, MP, (1654-1721), the builder of Hanbury, by John Vanderbank. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Thomas Vernon, MP, (1654-1721), the builder of Hanbury, by John Vanderbank. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Dining Room has two ceiling paintings by Thornhill. When Thomas Vernon (1654-721) built the house in the early 18th century there were two rooms here, a Lobby and a Withdrawing Room. These rooms were amalgamated into the present Dining Room after 1830.

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Boreas abducting Oreithyia, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Boreas abducting Oreithyia, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The smaller painting, with Boreas, the north wind, abducting the nymph Oreithyia, was originally the ceiling of the Lobby, hinting at the draughts coming in through the door into the north-east courtyard.

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Apollo abducting a nymph, possibly Cyrene, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Apollo abducting a nymph, possibly Cyrene, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The larger painting, depicting Apollo abducting a nymph, possibly Cyrene (although from some angles it appears as if she is abducting him), was originally the ceiling of the Withdrawing Room.

Composite image taken with ultra-violet light identifying the structural problems in one of the ceiling paintings in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust

Composite image taken with ultra-violet light to identify the structural problems in one of the ceiling paintings in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust

Over time the ceiling has bowed and cracked, which in turn has affected the paintings. The planned work will include strengthening the ceiling and the floors above, restoring the plasterwork and cleaning, repairing and retouching the paintings.

The south-east end of the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. The carved wood chimneypiece and overmantel date from about 1760. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The south-east end of the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. The carved wood chimneypiece and overmantel date from about 1760. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The total project will cost £74,500, and we have already found funds amounting to £44,500. Donations towards raising the remaining £30,000 can be made through the Hanbury Hall JustGiving site.

And the winner is: Hanbury Hall

December 3, 2010

©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Two days ago the mural conservation project at Hanbury Hall, which I featured earlier, was given the Pilgrim Trust Award for Conservation at the 2010 ICON Conservation Awards.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The judges praised the project for re-establishing the unity of this historic painted space, enabling the trompe l’oeil effects to be appreciated as its creator, Sir James Thornhill, intended.

Graphic recording the condition of the paint on the north wall. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

The judges also said that this conservation project has added considerably to our understanding of English Baroque wall painting techniques.

©Perry Lithgow Partnership

It was a good example of the importance of rigorous planning in order to integrate research, specialist advice and conservation skills. The project benefitted from good communication between the conservators, the Perry Lithgow Partnership, and the National Trust staff who acted as informed and collaborative clients.

Michelle Hill with the award. ©National Trust

Finally, the decision to allow the public to view the project up close was another factor in the project’s favour. Michelle Hill, the house steward at Hanbury, and her teams of volunteers organised ‘meet the gods’ tours and other activities to give visitors a better understanding of the murals and of the treatment they were receiving.

Mr Vernon’s murals

July 6, 2010

Hanbury Hall. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Hanbury Hall, in Worcestershire, was left to the National Trust in 1940. An endowment was provided for the house by an anonymous donor in 1953.

Bust of Thomas Vernon attributed to Edward Stanton. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The house was rebuilt in its present form around 1700 by Thomas Vernon (1654-1721), a wealthy lawyer and Whig Member of Parliament.

The Painted Staircase at Hanbury. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Hanbury contains a staircase with an amazing set of murals showing Greek deities and mythological figures. These were created for Thomas Vernon by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) from about 1710. At about the same time Thornhill was also working on his masterpiece, the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital

A figure of Mercury hovering at the juncture of the wall and the ceiling. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Mercury under UV light, showing up earlier retouchings as darker areas. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

These murals were recently conserved by the Perry Lithgow Partnership. They had last been treated in the 1950s. Since then the retouchings had discoloured and coatings had become opaque.

Infilled losses, prior to retouching. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Cracks had opened up, especially where the murals had been painted over the dado panelling.

Retouching in progress. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

The paint was cleaned and stabilised, and cracks and losses were filled and retouched.

The Hall looking towards the Painted Staircase. Thomas Vernon's bust lurks in the niche above the chimneypiece. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

The murals should now be all right for another half century or so.

Visual music

April 14, 2010

The Music Room at West Wycombe Park. ©NTPL/Tim Imrie

Among the group of objects at West Wycombe Park recently accepted in lieu of tax and allocated to the National Trust are four handsome pedestals in the Music Room inlaid with Siena marble and Sicilian jasper.

One of the pedestals by Henry Cheere. ©NTPL/John Hammond

They are by the sculptor Henry Cheere (1703-1781), and one of the reasons for keeping them at West Wycombe is the fact that there are several other works attributed to Cheere in the same room.

Prancing putti on the frieze of the chimneypiece. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The chimneypiece is most probably by the Cheere workshop as well, as are the doorcases. In decorating this room Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet, was mixing original classical works of art with modern works in a classical style to remind him of what he had seen on the Grand Tour.

An imtimate moment between Venus and Cupid, on the frieze of the chimneypiece. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The chimneypiece is made of carved white statuary marble against a Sicilian jasper background, and its frieze depicts Venus and Cupid attended by putti.

Feasting gods by Giuseppe Borgnis on the ceiling of the Music Room. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The theme is continued on the ceiling, where Giuseppe Borgnis (1701-1761) was employed to depict a banquet of the gods, copied from Raphael’s work in the Villa Farnesina in Rome.

Cheerful caryatids in the coving of the Music Room. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The decoration in the coving was copied by Borgnis from various frescoes by Annibale Carracci in the Palazzo Farnese.

Interestingly, celebrity meerkat Aleksandr Orlov lives in a mansion with some very similar interiors…


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