Thanks to generous funding from the Pilgrim Trust and the Trent Vale Landscape Partnership in 2012 Gainsborough Old Hall’s C 17th wall painting has received extensive conservation allowing a stunning reconstruction to be created.
Discovery & Conservation
Originally a rich and ostentatious scheme, the wall painting was discovered when lath and plaster was removed during building work c.1974. Recent conservation work has involved securing localised areas of detaching plaster, minor plaster repairs,removal of overpaint and toning the modern infill panels to be less obtrusive. The painting is conserved as it survives now. It is not how it appeared when new in the early C17th. The extensive damage makes precise interpretation of the painting problematic, however, it is believed to be an important example of the type of interior decoration favoured by the urban elite in the early C17th.
Although most of the surviving painting is on the west wall the scheme originally continued around all four walls of the room. The C17th painting imitates a textile. It has a top border and a main area below filled with trailing foliage. The design repeats with stacked columns dividing the main area into sections. Latin text filled the horizontal panels at the top centre of each section. Fantastic foliage, trailing foliage, fruits, flowers, black letter banners and birds fill the rest of the space.
The background for the main area was originally black with colour applied on top employing a range of cheap and midpriced pigments. Pigments used include white lead, orpiment (a bright yellow), blue verditer and red ochre, red lead and an organic red (made from dyestuffs). No green was found in any of the paint samples taken for analysis. It might be that there was an organic yellow component mixed with the blue to make a green but so faded that none could be identified. The foliage has thus been shown as blue in the artist’s reconstruction.
Rather than being a precise representation of the original wall painting the artist’s reconstruction aims to give an impression of how the wall painting might have looked in the early C17th. The deterioration of the wall painting has made its interpretation problematic but the artist’s impression has concentrated on conveying the richness of design and colour in the original scheme. A “life size” reconstructed banner showing detail from the central panel of the artist’s impression now hangs in the Old Hall’s gift shop. The most distinctive motif of the wallpainting,the fantastic fan-shaped foliage, is also depicted. The use of this motif with trailing foliage is very unusual and may be unique to Gainsborough Old Hall as comparative examples of this type have not yet been found.See what’s on…