Looking after King James

Conservator examining the portrait of King James I. ©National Trust

I keep finding new blogs being written by National Trust colleagues about the places where they work and the projects they are engaged in. My latest discovery is the Montacute House blog, which has actually been going for some time.

The portrait on display at Montacute following conservation. The painter took great care in rendering the different textures of the leather wallhanging, the fur cape and the silk costume. ©National Trust

One of the subjects that Montacute intern Emma Harnett and volunteer Andrew May have been posting about is the return of the portrait of King James I of England and VI of Scotland by John de Critz the Elder, which we recently purchased at auction. The picture had originally been given to Sir Edward Phelips, the builder of Montacute, as a mark of esteem by the king.

Samples are being taken and stored in phials for later analysis. ©National Trust

The portrait underwent conservation treatment before it was put on display. Here you can see a conservator taking tiny paint samples for analysis.

The back of the picture, showing the relative thinness of the panels. ©National Trust

The wooden panel that the portrait is painted on was found to be quite thin and slightly warped, with small cracks in places.

King James now has his own QR code. ©National Trust

A so-called panel tray has now been fitted to the back of the painting. This is a kind of box that supports the back of the picture but also allows it to move when there are changes in humidity levels, helping to prevent further damage.

I am looking forward to more interesting posts from the Montacute House blog.

5 Responses to “Looking after King James”

  1. style court Says:

    Emile, is it fairly common now for NT collection objects to have their own QR codes?

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    It isn’t, in fact – most of our paintings don’t have labels at all (apart from the traditional labels or inscriptions on the frames), because the historic houses of the National Trust are mostly displayed as domestic interiors rather than as ‘museums’ (although they are effectively museums, of course, and many of them are officially accredited as such). If a particular room has pictures then there tends to be a physical list available that visitors can consult there if they want to know more. It is one of those interesting conundrums: how to balance ‘atmosphere’ with ‘information’ 🙂 But colleagues are experimenting with QR codes to see where they might be used effectively, such as with this painting, but also out of doors.

  3. style court Says:

    It is an interesting conundrum. Maybe, eventually, with technology becoming more and more ‘invisible’ there will be new options — other ways to preserve the domestic atmosphere yet offer interactive features, too.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes, image recognition technology, perhaps, which apparently is developing fast – so that you could aim your smartphone at the painting, it would ‘read’ and recognise the image, link to the National Trust Collections database and retrieve the relevant information – an ideal mixture of low intervention and high technology, and probably coming to a museum near us sooner than we think 🙂

  5. columnist Says:

    This is off topic, but I was watching the series “Servants” the other day, and I noted that the house used was Dyrham Park. I’m pretty sure that “Lady Caroline Lamb” with Sarah Myles was also filmed there, but only from a distant memory; the house just seemed so very familiar. Do you know?

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