Grotesque conservation

As part of an ongoing project to conserve the deteriorating grotesque paintings in the Cartoon Gallery, specialist conservators Melanie and Trevor visited Knole last week to safely remove the next four grotesques from their panels, to take them away for remedial conservation treatment.

The first step was to remove the wooden edging which secures the paintings in place. This revealed some of the original paint colouring which has not been damaged by light.

Melanie was then able to remove the metal tacks which secured the canvas directly to the panelling.

The three smaller grotesques from the west bay window are in a relatively stable condition and were soon removed from the wall with ease and ready to be packed and taken to Melanie’s studio.

Melanie carefully removes the tacks which held the canvas in place, protecting the paint surface from the pliers with Tyvek.

The larger grotesque on the south wall (which is partially hidden behind a pier glass mirror, taken down to give access a few days earlier) is much more fragile and has been repaired and patched many times over the years. Some of these repairs have not been very sympathetic with some patches being glued directly on to the wooden backing and some even nailed into place. Each of these patches had to be carefully removed and the canvas taken down in sections.

Trevor’s hand can be seen in the hole where a poorly conserved patch of the grotesque canvas has already been carefully removed.


Melanie consolidated the loose sections of canvas using a heated spatula…

When all the smaller pieces had been carefully removed or secured, it was time for Trevor to remove the last tacks and ease the canvas down from the wall, under the scaffold tower and on to a backing sheet.


The largest piece of canvas – resembling a jigsaw puzzle!

Specialist conservation  transport company Constantine arrived the next day to carefully pack the grotesques and deliver them Melanie’s conservation studio.  Each canvas was sandwiched in acid free tissue paper and secured between two boards. This ensures the canvases do not move around or bend during their journey.



We are really looking forward to seeing the results of Melanie and Trevor’s work (which will take approximately one year) and seeing the grotesques back up on display.

Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Emily


3 thoughts on “Grotesque conservation

  1. Pingback: November – December | Inspired by Knole

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