Date completed : 28 February 2020 Duration : 6 Months
Rachel Howells

The condition of ‘The Imprisoned Soul’ was extremely poor.  It had suffered water damage causing flaking all along the right hand side, one large gash, upper centre and twenty three other smaller tears.  The attachment of the canvas to its stretcher had also failed and there was a heavy deposit of gritty surface dirt that had abraded the paint surface.

Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust
Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust
Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust
Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust
Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust
Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust
Margaret Linsday Williams project, Dyffryn House, National Trust

‘The Imprisoned Soul’ after in situ consolidation tissue has been removed before treatment, the tears number for reference.

Detail of large horizontal gash in raking light before treatment

The three other decorative scenes had also suffered more minor structural damages such as tears and knocks, localised areas of instability and flaking, and a heavy deposit of surface dirt but were in better condition than ‘The Imprisoned Soul’ and so were possible to treat in situ.  The two larger decorative paintings had unusual decorative plaster frames, the smaller painting was unframed.

‘The Imprisoned Soul’ underwent a full conservation and restoration treatment in the studio including stabilisation, tear repair, surface dirt removal, filling, re-varnishing, retouching and conservation framing in a new frame commissioned by the Trust.  The large tear was repaired using two techniques, the Professor Heiber method of re-weaving displaced threads where they were still present using a sturgeon glue/wheat starch paste adhesive, and using polyamide welding powder where there was a sharp break with no threads available to re-weave.  The conservation treatment was filmed and will provide audiovisual content to accompany the forthcoming display in the House, due originally to open in March 2020. 

Whole front after tear repair during surface dirt removal

Assistant conservator Sarah Bayliss retouching large tear on The Imprisoned Soul

Detail of large gash after treatment

Whole front after treatment

The three decorative paintings were treated in situ in the house along with two public engagement sessions twice a week. 

Rachel Howells carrying out varnish removal on ‘Psyche and Cupid’ in situ in Dyffryn House

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