The tapestry, ‘Leander taking leave of his parents’ (c. 1660-90), is from the King Charles Room at Cotehele, Cornwall, and has been at the Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk since March 2015. It is one of three tapestries in the ‘Hero and Leander’ set at the property, measures 285cm high x 579cm wide and is woven from wool and silk. The tapestry is currently having a stitched conservation treatment, having already undergone full documentation, adhesive removal and wet cleaning. Removal of the 1960’s adhesive patch treatment resulted in the exposure of large areas of tapestry loss, where the damaged or weak tapestry had been cut away. This required an infill for structural and aesthetic reasons and a printed photographic patch was chosen, having used this method successfully in 2009 on the ‘Leander swimming the Hellespont’ tapestry.
On the left, another version of the ‘Leander taking leave of his parents’ tapestry at Hardwick Hall (© National Trust/Robert Thrift). This was photographed to provide details for the missing area of the Cotehele tapestry, as seen on the right (© National Trust/Chris Tims Photoworx).
Working at the Studio with a local photographer, high resolution digital images were taken of the tapestry (which had been wet cleaned and attached to a piece of black fabric for easier handling). As seen in the image below, the tapestry was hung from one of the electric hoists that we have at the studio. We could not hang the tapestry horizontally (as it is normally displayed) as it was too weak.
At Hardwick Hall (a National Trust property) a photograph was taken of their ‘Leander taking leave of his parents’ tapestry, which hangs on the great main staircase. It dates form 1648-1660 and was also woven at Mortlake.
Both tapestries are a similar design, the main differences being the blue clothing of Leander and the plain design of his mother’s dress (red clothing and a floral dress on the Hardwick tapestry). These differences were dealt with using computer- aided design (CAD) work at Zardi & Zardi, the company who were commissioned to produce the printed patch.
Zardi & Zardi provided a white coarse linen fabric. Initially, this fabric was dyed a dull yellow ochre colour prior to printing onto it (the tapestry has a general yellowed appearance). The printers sent test samples (see image on right) but they felt that they did not achieve such a high quality print on this pre-dyed fabric. Further test prints were undertaken on the white linen.
A scale was included in the original photographs taken by the photographers, so it was easy for the printers to produce the patches to the correct size.
Each time a new test patch arrived, conservators working on the tapestry discussed the results with colleagues. Requests were made to the printers to alter certain colours to enable the patch to blend into the surrounding area of the tapestry.
Obtaining the correct colours on the printed patch was extremely difficult. The image on the left shows the blue sandal of Leander and the plain dress of his mother. Unfortunately, no shadows had been inserted on Leander’s knee and beneath the figure, so these were added on request.
These shadows were not the correct colour. Due to time and cost restrictions, it was decided that to achieve this, the patches would be painted to tone down and alter the colour. Matt acrylic paints consisting of pure, lightfast pigments and an age resistant acrylic binder (Lascaux Sirius® acrylic colours) were brushed onto the surface of the printed patch.
Conservators checking the final version of the patch before applying it to the tapestry.
The printed patch for Leander’s father’s leg (left), as seen from the front of the tapestry during insertion (centre) and stitched in place on the reverse (right)
The conservator used a curved needle to stitch regular gridlines through the tapestry and patch (above, centre), which temporarily held both layers secure whilst the tapestry is mounted on the tapestry frame.
The stitched conservation of the tapestry began in August 2016 and will take nearly 18 months.
All images ©National Trust/Textile Conservation Studio unless stated.
Post written by Nadine Wilson, Textile Conservator.