At the end of May I returned to Dulwich Picture Gallery (DPG) to oversee the de-installation of our Van Dyck portrait of Sofonisba Anguissola. She was the last painting to come down, 2 days after the end of ‘Van Dyck in Scilly’ exhibition. The gallery art handlers removed her from the wall to a table for the conservator and I to check.
Using a condition report carried out before the exhibition when the painting first arrived at the DPG, we assessed the painting to see if there had been any change in condition or deterioration to the painting surface or picture frame. The environmental conditions in the gallery are controlled and within the desired limits of 50 – 60% relative humidity (RH). This is however much lower, and drier, than the RH at Knole. The paint layer although fragile appeared to have no change in condition, and the frame seemed ok too. However the mitre joints did appear to have opened up. This will have occurred because the wood has lost a small amount of moisture in the drier conditions.
However there are not any other signs of physical stress to the frame and we are confident that as the frame re-acclimatises back to Knole’s RH levels and takes on moisture again the joints will close up again as the wood swells. The painting and frame are being closely monitored during the re-acclimatisation period, it has been in the Great Hall for a week now. The RH is higher in here than at the DPG but lower than the Leicester Gallery where it normally hangs. Providing the RH in the Leicester Gallery is not excessively high at the end of the week we hope she will be hung by the weekend, just as another portrait has left…
…Now it was the turn of our portrait of Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, which hangs in the Great Hall to go on loan. It was collected on Wednesday and delivered to the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). The painting is very similar to a painting already in the NPG. Both pictures are attributed to the significant Elizabethan and Jacobean artist, John de Critz the elder.
I supervised the art handlers taking down, wrapping and carrying the painting to the lorry. I also checked it was secure and properly supported.
Recent research and tracings taken of both the paintings at Knole and the NPG has revealed that they correspond very closely. The exhibition at the NPG, entitled “Double Take” will explore the nature of versions and copies of 16th century portraits by pairing five key portraits from the Galleries collections with other surviving versions.*
*You can find out more about the exhibition at the NPGs website