Screens with Personifications and Motifs, Hardwick Hall

This screen panel is one double sided leaf from a four part screen. The embroideries date to the 1580’s and date from the same period as the Penelope hanging. Although mounting in the screens and the black velvet are early 20th century alteration.


The reverse panel is decorated with motifs, which possibly originate from a Church cope.  The front panel depicts four embroidered arches or portals, each with a needlepoint ‘mask’ at the apex of the arch.  In the top three arches is an appliqué and embroidered female figure (personification).

The materials used in the embroideries are of the finest and most luxurious dyed silks and wools, woven and embroidered with metal threads and silk floss.  When made they would have been very expensive.

Composite of screens before conservation

The embroidered details had suffered some damage, mostly in the form of loose and deteriorating metal threads, and the brittle silk used for the faces and hands was beginning to shatter.

Dyed net and Stabiltex have been used over the damaged areas, and a fine polyester Scala thread was used to secure the fabric and any loose threads.

Composite after conservation
Composite after conservation

Once the textile conservation had been completed we needed the help of a furniture conservator to help adjust the frames to better contain the finished embroideries.

Hardwick personification screens

In September 2012 a furniture conservator from Tankerdale visited the studio to aid the re-installation of the textile panels into a glazed wooden frame.  The two textile panels had been conserved earlier in the year, and the final stage was to re-install it into its frame.

The frame is one of four that forms a double sided folding screen.  The personifications panels is the front, and the motifs the reverse.  On my last visit to Hardwick Hall the screen was removed and analysed to determine any alterations needed.

When the textile panels were mounted in the current frame, the glass was too close and touched the textile.  This can cause two problems, firstly the textile can be compressed, and secondly it can create a microclimate within the frame.  A microclimate is a small area or space with its own atmospheric properties (temperature and relative humidity).   Microclimates are perfect environments for moulds and pests to breed, as they are normally warmer, damper, darker and undisturbed.  Mould had been detected in some of the screens, so it was vital, if possible, to alter the frame to allow for more space, and therefore more air circulation, preventing a similar microclimate forming again.

To strengthen the edges of the textile panels, a 22mm wide cotton tape was applied around the perimeter of both panels.  This extra strength was needed, as the panels were stretched into the frame, and stapled into place using stainless steel staples.

The glazed screen only allowed for access from the reverse.  When it reached the studio, it was dismantled and cleaned, inside and out.  Fillets (narrow pieces of oak) were placed into the screen, to rest between the glass and the textile panel, this was done to increase the space between them.  Then the personification panel was placed face down into the frame, stretched and stapled into place.  The motif panel was then placed, face up and the same method repeated.  Due to the tension created, a board was not need to support the textiles.  The reverse of the glazed screen was then reconstructed, sealing the object.