Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd November: It’s all in the details…

Over the past 250 years the Breakfast Room ceiling’s intricate plaster decoration has been covered by layer upon layer of paint.  This week trials were carried out to see whether these layers could be removed and reveal the original detail in the design.

Removing 7 layers of white emulsion, a layer of blue, a layer of yellow and a, very thick, ‘mushroom white’ beneath.  During removal (above) and the finished result (below):

Using a carefully controlled chemical solvent time trials were conducted to gain an understanding of the different layers and whether the paint might be removed

3 different solvents were tried.  One failed to make any progress at all, one worked incredibly slowly and one was effective.  

These different speeds were affected by whether the paints were oil based or water based.  Different elements of paint mobilise at different rates depending on how they bond with different chemical agents in the stripper.  As a result residue must be completely removed and timings closely observed.

Stone and Plaster Conservator, Sharon Bailey, conducting the ‘time trials’.

RESULTS

Once the lower layer of white was removed the extent to which the paint obscures the design became very clear.

Most interestingly, preliminary findings appear to suggest that it is the layer of paint beneath the yellow and blue scheme of the 1970s which is clogging up the ceiling.  This is in complete contrast to archival research already conducted which indicated that it was the most recent white layers which had caused the problem.

NEXT STEPS

  • Further paint analysis of the ceiling will be conducted.
  • The Breakfast Room has been cleared and a group of experts will be invited early next year to view recent progress.