Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Video: Washing a 17thc. Royal Tapestry

Friday, February 19, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Housekeeping in a royal palace is a bit more complicated than a quick run-around with the vacuum. Priceless furnishings and artwork require special treatment that is often complicated, costly, and technologically challenging.

The tapestries that were hung on the walls of Hampton Court Palace not only displayed the wealth and power of the royal family, but also helped keep back the drafts in the vast (and largely unheated) rooms of the Palace. Over the centuries, the tapestries also attracted dust and dirt that had diminished their visual impact and stressed their fibers. But how do you clean a tapestry that's as large as a small house?

This wonderful short video shows how textile conservators tackled the task of washing February, one of the largest Mortlake tapestries in the Palace's collection. The wash bath was specially built for the tapestries, using de-ionised (soft) water, a custom detergent mixture, and the most gentle of touches. For more about conserving the tapestries, see the Palace's website here.


Jacquilynne said...

I really wanted a side-by-side before and after shot taken in similar lighting so I could see if the cleaning made a visible difference!

Quinn said...

Very interesting, thanks for posting!
I was expecting a dramatic you think it didn't make a big difference, visually? I even went to their website to look further, but that linked page about conservation mentions a project for which "The results of the analysis will be available in April 2007"...kind of makes me think they need to be updating their website sometime soon?!

Carole Savage AKA epona said...

Jacquilynne and Quinn - You posted what I was going to. I really want to see before and after pictures. Why is the linked in website so out of date? ~ Epona

Omaha Seamus said...

Nobody recognizes the biggest advantage of tapestries.
A stone building, like a church, has multiple echoes like Fenway Park.
I have given up on trying to understand the sermon on Sunday.
Something like tapestries is needed to absorb the sound before it echoes.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I wanted a before-and-after shot too, but though I hunted all through the internet and the Historic Royal Palaces site, I couldn't locate one. I've found that many of the UK historical/museum sites are slow to update their blogs and website (or perhaps I'm just accustomed to - and spoiled by - how quickly American ones tend to do so), which I suspect is an economic limitation rather than an interest one. And if the choice of how to spend their money is between revamping their web presence or conserving their collections, I'm glad they chose the collections. Still, even without the before-and-after, I thought the video of the process was sufficiently interesting on its own to share....

Christina Spikloser said...

I wish they would have done a before and after picture, to see the difference. awesome video.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

I absolutely love this video and have watched it a few times, it just makes me so happy! All hose conservators lying on the jig sponging it form above, it's just a delight.
I don't know that the most important outcome of the cleaning is to make it look massively better, but rather to ensure it is freed from dirt and grim and insects and things that actively speed up deterioration. There's probably been some colour fade that cleaning won't reverse too.

Karen Anne said...

I'm amazed it didn't fall to pieces in the process.

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