This bed represented an unusual project. The furnishings had been stripped off the mahogany frame and put into store, in part due to their poor condition, but also because some of the silk damask covering to the moulding on the tester had been removed from the wood. It is likely that the red silk furnishings date to a later period than the bed, and evidence had been sought under the silk on the mouldings of an earlier decorative scheme (none was found). I was presented with a box of bits and pieces to reassemble like a jig-saw. The brief was to re- instate the bed, in collaboration with furniture conservators who would stabilise the wooden elements, so that it could be redisplayed at Heaton Hall.
The textile components were comprised of a tester canopy and silk-covered mouldings; inner and outer upper pelmets; curtains; head-cloth and silk-covered wooden moulded headboard; lower valances.
Much of the treatment involved the routine support of damaged silk onto dyed supports, secured with stitching. The bare mouldings were re-covered with the damask that had been removed – these had been washed at the time of their removal, and all adhesive residues dissolved. A PVA adhesive was applied to the wood, allowed to dry, and the damask then heat-sealed onto the mouldings with a small spatula iron. The completed and fully-furnished bed made an impressive display at Heaton Hall.
One of a set of four early 18th century English tapestries, woven in Soho, possibly by the workshop of John Vaderbank, c.1720. The scene depicts figures, some in exotic dress, in gardens, the borders woven with garlands of fruit and flowers with parrots, cockatoos and other birds, and with outer enchained narrow borders. Wool, with silk highlights.
The tapestry was very dirty, with a vertical line of brown varnish on the right hand side which was very disfiguring. The wool and silk had deteriorated especially in the borders, although the colours in this case were unusually strong.
Prior to treatment all dyes were tested for wet-fastness, and the varnish for solubility. Any evidence of original linings and fixings are always looked for, and in this case evidence of an early red wool lining was found. The varnish was removed using the solvent acetone, and the tapestry was then washed. Washing not only makes a dramatic visual difference, but also removes harmful and potentially acidic soiling which acts over time to degrade fibres. The tapestry was then fully supported onto a linen scrim, and re-lined ready for display at Erddig Hall.
A collection of five panels of ‘stained’ or ‘painted cloth’, a once common form of interior decoration before the introduction of wallpapers and cheaper than tapestries, probably made around 1680, and now very rare. The medium is tempera on untreated linen.
The hangings were in a poor condition, dirty and torn, with areas missing. They had at some time been ‘wiped down’ with a wet cloth, and much of the once vibrant colour was lost. The original colour could be seen around the edges where it had been obscured under wooden moulding. The remaining pigment was powdery, and the linen ground fabric was weak.
The hangings were cleaned with micro-vacuum suction, and supported onto new linen which had been coated with an adhesive film. Areas of loss were in- filled with Japanese tissue paper and appropriately coloured with water-colour pigments, re-introducing the design where possible. They were then mounted on acid-free boards for re-display.