The Sound of Paris in the Eighteenth Century

Posted in on site, resources by Editor on July 14, 2015

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Audio Reconstruction of Eighteenth-Century Paris

A team from Université Lyon-2, led by Mylène Pardoen (Department of Music and Musicology), has reconstructed the soundscape of eighteenth-century Paris.

From Le Journal CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique). . .

La musicologue Mylène Pardoen a reconstitué l’ambiance sonore du quartier du Grand Châtelet à Paris, au XVIIIe siècle. Présenté au salon de la valorisation en sciences humaines et sociales, à la Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, son projet associe historiens et spécialistes de la 3D.

Paris comme vous ne l’avez jamais entendu ! C’est l’expérience que propose la musicologue Mylène Pardoen, du laboratoire Passages XX-XXI, à travers le projet Bretez. Un nom qui n’a pas été choisi par hasard : la première reconstitution historique sonore conçue par ce collectif associant historiens, sociologues et spécialistes de la 3D1, a en effet pour décor le Paris du XVIIIe siècle cartographié par le célèbre plan Turgot-Bretez de 1739 – Turgot, prévost des marchands de Paris, en étant le commanditaire, et Bretez, l’ingénieur chargé du relevé des rues et immeubles de la capitale.

70 tableaux sonores

C’est plus précisément dans le quartier du Grand Châtelet, entre le pont au Change et le pont Notre-Dame, que la vidéo de 8 minutes 30 transporte le visiteur. « J’ai choisi ce quartier car il concentre 80 % des ambiances sonores du Paris de l’époque, raconte Mylène Pardoen. Que ce soit à travers les activités qu’on y trouve – marchands, artisans, bateliers, lavandières des bords de Seine… –, ou par la diversité des acoustiques possibles, comme l’écho qui se fait entendre sous un pont ou un passage couvert… » S’il existe déjà des vidéos sonorisées, c’est la première fois qu’une reconstitution en 3D est bâtie autour de l’ambiance sonore : les hauteurs des bâtiments comme les matériaux dans lesquels ils sont construits, torchis ou pierre, tiennent compte des sons perçus – étouffés, amplifiés… – et inversement. . . .

More information is available here»

The Alamo Now a World Heritage Site

Posted in on site by Editor on July 7, 2015


 The Alamo, San Antonio
(Wikimedia Commons, 18 April 2007)

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As reported by Reuters, via The Guardian (5 July 2015). . .

Alamo Named First World Heritage Site in Texas after Nine-Year Campaign
Spanish colonial missions in San Antonio chosen as part of 23rd US site deemed of ‘outstanding importance’ to human heritage

A United Nations agency on Sunday [5 July 2015] named the Alamo and the four Spanish colonial Catholic missions in San Antonio a World Heritage Site, making them the first places in Texas deemed to be of “outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity.”

The decision capped a nine-year campaign by San Antonio and Texas to have the early 18th-century missions listed alongside world treasures such as Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat. The missions are now the 23rd World Heritage Site in the US.

“The city of San Antonio is delighted with Unesco’s decision today and the recognition that our Spanish colonial missions are of outstanding value to the people of the world,” mayor Ivy Taylor said from Bonn, Germany, where the announcement was made.

Sarah Gould, archivist at the Institute of Texan Cultures, said there were many reasons for the listing of the four missions, which are still used as Catholic churches, and the Alamo, a fortified church, barracks and other buildings that was the scene of the 1836 battle for Texan independence. . . .

But the designation has not been entirely embraced in Texas, where the phrase ‘United Nations’ provokes suspicion among some. . . .

The full article is available here»

Objects from the Slave Ship São José To Be Displayed in D.C.

Posted in conferences (to attend), exhibitions, on site by Editor on June 4, 2015

Thomas Luny (1759-1837) Oil on panel 27,5 x 43cm Iziko Social History Collections: SACHM 86/235 Photo: Pam Warne

Thomas Luny, Table Bay Cape Town, 1790s, oil on panel (Iziko Social History Collections). Depiction of the port of Cape Town, South Africa where the São José slave ship planned to stop before continuing to Brazil. The ship wrecked near the Cape of Good Hope before arriving in Table Bay. Photo by Pam Warne.

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Press release (1 June 2015) from The Smithonian:

National Museum of African American History and Culture To Display Objects from Slave Shipwreck Found Near Cape Town, South Africa

Museum Joins Iziko Museums of South Africa and George Washington University in Slave Wrecks Research Project

Objects from a slave ship that sank off the coast of Cape Town in 1794 will be on long-term loan to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The announcement, scheduled for Tuesday, June 2, will take place at a historic ceremony at Iziko Museums of South Africa. The discovery of the ship marks a milestone in the study of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and showcases the results of the Slave Wrecks Project, a unique global partnership among museums and research institutions, including NMAAHC and six partners in the U.S. and Africa.

Objects from the shipwreck—iron ballast to weigh down the ship and its human cargo and a wooden pulley block—were retrieved this year from the wreck site of the São José-Paquete de Africa, a Portuguese slave ship that sank off the coast of Cape Town on its way to Brazil while carrying more than 400 enslaved Africans from Mozambique.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of NMAAHC, and Rooksana Omar, CEO of Iziko Museums, will join in the announcement of the shipwreck’s discovery and the artifact loan agreement.

“Perhaps the single greatest symbol of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is the ships that carried millions of captive Africans across the Atlantic never to return,” said Bunch. “This discovery is significant because there has never been archaeological documentation of a vessel that foundered and was lost while carrying a cargo of enslaved persons. The São José is all the more significant because it represents one of the earliest attempts to bring East Africans into the trans-Atlantic slave trade—a shift that played a major role in prolonging that tragic trade for decades.”

São José Wreck

The São José’s voyage was one of the earliest in the trans-Atlantic slave trade from East Africa to the Americas, which continued well into the 19th century. More than 400,000 East Africans are estimated to have made the Mozambique-to-Brazil journey between 1800 and 1865. The ship’s crew and some of the more than 400 enslaved on board were rescued after the ship ran into submerged rocks about 100 meters (328 feet) from shore. Tragically, more than half of the enslaved people perished in the violent waves. The remainder were resold into slavery in the Western Cape.

The São José wreck site is located between two reefs, a location that creates a difficult environment to work in because it is prone to strong swells creating challenging conditions for the archaeologists. To date, only a small percentage of the site has been excavated; fully exploring the site will take time.

Even the smallest artifact gives a clue into the shipwreck’s story:

1980s: Local amateur treasure hunters discovered a wreck near Cape Town and mistakenly identified it as the wreck of an earlier Dutch vessel. They applied for a permit under the legislation of the time and had to report their findings.

2008–2009: The Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) staff identified the São José as a target for location in its pilot project.

2010–2011: Jaco Boshoff, the co-originator of SWP, served as lead archaeologist for Iziko and primary investigator for the São José project. He discovered the captain’s account of the wrecking of the São José in the Cape archives. New interest was developed on the site. Copper fastenings and copper sheathing indicated a wreck of a later period, and iron ballast—often found on slave ships and other ships as a means of stabilizing the vessel—was found on the wreck.

2012–2013: SWP uncovered an archival document in Portugal stating that the São José had loaded iron ballast before she departed for Mozambique, further confirming the site as the São José wreck. Archaeological documentation of the wreck site began in 2013.

2014–2015: Some of the first artifacts are brought above water through a targeted retrieval process according to the best archaeological and preservation practices. Using CT scan technology because of the fragility of the site, the SWP identified the remains of shackles on the wreck site, a difficult undertaking because of extreme iron corrosion. Archival research locates a document in which a slave is noted as sold by a local sheikh to the São José’s captain before its departure, definitively identifying Mozambique Island as the port of departure for the slaving voyage. Archival and archaeological prospecting work was launched in Mozambique and Brazil in order to identify sites related to the São José story for future research.

2015–ongoing: Full archaeological documentation and retrieval of select items to help to tell of the São José wreck site continue; the search for descendant communities of Mozambicans from the wreck also continues.

A selection of artifacts retrieved from the São José wreck will be loaned by Iziko Museums and the South African government for display in an inaugural exhibition titled Slavery and Freedom at NMAAHC, opening fall 2016. Iziko Museums also plans an exhibition.

Memorial Service

On Tuesday, June 2, soil brought from Mozambique Island, the site of the São José’s embarkation, will be deposited on the wreck site by a team represented by divers from Mozambique, South Africa and the United States. A solemn memorial service will also be held close by and on shore honoring the 500 enslaved Mozambicans who lost their lives or were sold into slavery. SWP researchers, Cape Town dignitaries and delegations from the U.S. Consulate and South African government will attend the private ceremony.


A daylong public symposium, Bringing the São José into Memory, will be held June 3 featuring a series of panel discussions focusing on the wreck, the slave trade, slavery, history and memory. The panels will take place at the Iziko Museums’ TH Barry Lecture Theatre and feature discussions and performances by scholars, curators, heritage activists, artists, hip-hop musicians and slave descendants from various academic, heritage and religious institutions, including Iziko, St. George’s Cathedral, NMAAHC, George Washington University, Syracuse University, Brown University, University of Western Cape, Cape Family Research Forum among others.

Maritime Archaeology and Conservation Workshop

The week’s activities will also include a conservation workshop for archaeologists, researchers and museum professionals from Mozambique, Senegal and South Africa to learn techniques in conservation and care for marine materials. This workshop, co-taught by Boshoff and George Schwarz of the U.S. Naval Heritage Command, is an opportunity to advance professional training and capacity for individuals and institutions, a core component of SWP’s mission. Representatives from Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, and Cheik Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, will join with Smithsonian and Iziko professionals in a dialogue about current and future research and searches in their respective regions.

Slave Wrecks Project History

Founded in 2008, SWP brings together partners who have been investigating the impact of the slave trade on world history. It spearheaded the recent discovery of the São José wreck and the ongoing documentation and retrieval of select artifacts. In addition, extensive archival research was conducted on four continents in six countries that ultimately uncovered the ship captain’s account of the wrecking in the Cape archives as well as the ship’s manifest in Portuguese archives. Core SWP partners include George Washington University, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the South African Heritage Resource Agency, the U.S. National Park Service, Diving With a Purpose, a project of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, and the African Center for Heritage Activities.

SWP, established with funding from the Ford Foundation, set a new model for international collaboration among museums and research institutions. It has been combining groundbreaking slave shipwreck investigation, maritime and historical archeological training, capacity building, heritage tourism and protection, and education to build new scholarship and knowledge about the study of the global slave trade.

Historic Buildings of Armagh and Monaghan in Context

Posted in conferences (to attend), on site, opportunities by Editor on May 31, 2015

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From the Irish Georgian Society:

Conservation without Frontiers: Historic Buildings of Armagh and Monaghan in Context
Armagh and Monaghan, 25–27 June 2015

For the first time, the joint Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Irish Georgian Society summer school will bring together students, enthusiasts and practitioners to explore, discuss and debate issues relating to our shared Irish heritage in the context of Armagh and Monaghan. A key theme of the event is conservation and regeneration for community benefit which will demonstrate the critical importance of built heritage in maintaining the distinctive qualities of the region and supporting the growth of tourism, economic development and prosperity. The summer school will provide a platform to showcase the best that both counties have to offer in terms of their history and heritage. Leaders will include well known academics, architectural historians, architects, planners, conservation and heritage officers. The support of both councils will also reinforce the positive developing relationship between them and our respective organisations. An Eventbrite payment has been set up to facilitate online bookings in euro or sterling. The summer school director is Kevin V. Mulligan, author of The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster.

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T H U R S D A Y ,  2 5  J U N E  2 0 1 5
• Conservation Areas — the legislation and implementation
• New work and reordering: current practice in England
• Tour of cathedrals with Alistair Rowan
• Tour of Mall and Market Square with Alastair Coey
• Presentation on the work of Thomas Cooley and Francis Johnston by Judith Hill at Armagh Public Library
• Tour of Palace Demesne with Edward McParland
Speakers: Patrick Duffy, Michael O’Neill, Frederick O’Dwyer, Andrew Derrick, Marcus Patton

F R I D A Y ,  2 6  J U N E  2 0 1 5
• Tour of Castle Leslie
• Introduction to heritage and housing
• Discussion on cross border heritage initiatives
The Buildings of Ireland Series
• Tour of Glaslough
• Visit Lady Anne Dawson Mausoleum, Dartrey, St. Peter’s Church, Laragh and St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan
• Walking tour of Monaghan with Kevin Mulligan
• Discussion and debate at Market House, Monaghan
Speakers: Dawson Stelfox, Andrew McClelland, Alistair Rowan, Bishop Joseph Duffy

S A T U R D A Y ,  2 7  J U N E  2 0 1 5
• Tour of Annaghmakerrig House
• Debate: Contemplating the Contemporary — Modernist vs. traditional approach to building in the historic environment in the 21st century, chaired by Frank McNally with speakers Aidan McGrath, Liam Mulligan, Nicholas Groves-Raines
• Results and viewing of student competition
• Presentation of Summer School Student Awards
• Conclusion with celebratory lunch

This course is approved for CPD by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland; the programme is subject to change.

Sir John Soane’s Private Apartments and Model Room

Posted in on site by Editor on May 18, 2015

From Sir John Soane’s Museum:

Soane Tour: Private Apartments and Model Room
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, starting May 19

Watercolour by C .J. Richardson ca. 1834-35

Sir John Soane’s Model Room, watercolour by C. J. Richardson ca. 1834–35

Explore Soane’s unique house-museum with our expert staff on the Soane Highlights Tour. Be transported back to Regency London as we guide you through Sir John Soane’s extraordinary home, including Soane’s fully-restored private apartments and Model Room, not seen by the public for 160 years. Offering a fascinating insight into his work and family life, the tour will show you the highlights amongst the many treasures on display, including paintings by Canaletto and J.M.W. Turner, the 3,000 year-old sarcophagus of Egyptian King Seti I, and William Hogarth’s complete A Rake’s Progress. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 12:00, £10.

Coverage from The Guardian is available here»

Clandon Park House Gutted by Fire

Posted in on site by Editor on May 4, 2015

Marble Hall, chimneypiece with marble reliefs by Rysbrack

The Marble Hall at Clandon following the fire, showing a marble relief by John Michael Rysbrack still over the chimneypiece. ©National Trust/John Millar.

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As reported by BBC News (2 May 2015). . .

The investigation into the cause of a fire that ravaged Clandon Park House “will take some time” owing to its complexity, Surrey fire service said. The blaze at the Grade I listed National Trust property near Guildford on Wednesday [April 29] left the structure gutted.

Structural assessments of the building are continuing and will inform what happens to the 18th-century mansion in the future. The trust said it was too early to discuss a restoration of Clandon. But a “significant amount” of the Palladian mansion’s collection had been saved according to Dame Helen Ghosh, the trust’s director general.

“Although the house was pretty well burned out, the operation rescued a significant amount of the collection, and we are hopeful there will be more to recover when our specialists are able to get inside the building and start the painstaking archaeological salvage work,” she said.

“But there is a lot that we will never recover.”

“The immediate sense of shock and loss amongst staff working at the property has quickly been replaced by a steely determination,” Dame Helen added. “When the overall impact of the fire is clearer, we will be able to decide on the longer term future of the house.”

About 80 firefighters tackled the blaze at its height and crews managed to save a “significant” number of valuable antiques, that have now been “safely” put into storage. . .

The full article is available here»

Additional information is available at Emile de Bruijn’s Treasure Hunt: National Trust Collections.


The Landmark Trust Turns 50

Posted in on site by Editor on April 17, 2015

The Landmark Trust turns fifty in May:

The Landmark Trust’s Golden Weekend
50 Landmark Open Days in the UK, 16–17 May 2015


The Dining Room at 13 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, London, built ca. 1718–19. The Landmark Trust is featured in House & Garden (May 2015), pp. 134–39. Photo by Ben Quinton.

The Landmark Trust is a charity that rescues important buildings that would otherwise be lost. We take on historic places in danger and carefully and sensitively restore them. By making them available for holidays, we make sure they can be enjoyed by all, both today and for future generations. We have in our care nearly 200 buildings in Britain and several in Italy and France. Though they range from the sober to the spectacular, all our buildings are rich in history and atmosphere. They include picturesque pavilions and medieval long-houses, artillery forts and Gothick follies, clan chiefs’ castles and cotton weavers’ cottages, the homes of great writers and the creations of great architects, from Browning to Boswell, from Pugin to Palladio.

In the month we were founded, we will open 25 Landmarks for a special, celebratory open weekend across England Scotland and Wales, many never before or only rarely open to the public. The buildings have been carefully picked so that 95% of the British population will be within 50 miles of an open Landmark.

At 3pm on 16 May 2015 local groups, community choirs, bands, bell ringers and musicians of all sorts will simultaneously perform a specially commissioned Anthem for Landmark by acclaimed young composer Kerry Andrew. We hope this will unite Landmarkers and local communities across the country in a wonderful shared celebration.

More information about the weekend is available here»

Belmont, Landmark Trust property, Lyme Regis, Dorset

Richard Samuel Coade, Belmont (Lyme Regis, Dorset), built before 1784, at which point it became the home of Eleanor Coade; appropriately the house showcases the eponymous artificial stone she pioneered.

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One of The Landmark Trust’s latest project, Belmont is scheduled to open later this year:

Belmont (Lyme Regis, Dorset) is a fine, early example of a maritime villa, a new building type that sprang up in the second half of the 18th century with the rising popularity of sea bathing and holidays by the seaside. Our research has shown that the house was built before 1784 by Samuel Coade. This is the date he transferred the house to his niece, Mistress Eleanor Coade (1733–1821), one of the most intriguing figures in 18th-century architecture.

Our project will rescue Belmont from decay and restore it to its late-Georgian glory, creating a Landmark which will sleep 8 people. As it was once Mrs Coade’s holiday villa, so it will be used for holidays again, with its original features repaired and reinstated.

Thanks to a hugely generous financial bequest to Landmark by the late Mrs Shelagh Preston, the fundraising appeal for Belmont has now reached its target. We are so grateful to everyone who supported Belmont, helping us to raise a total of £1.8m.

The Menokin Glass House: A Revolutionary Project

Posted in on site by Editor on December 9, 2014


Proposed ‘Glass House’ Restoration for Menokin in Warsaw, Virginia
from the website Menokin: Rubble with a Cause

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From the blog of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Meghan O’Connor, “Eighteenth-Century House Ruin to Be Restored…With Glass,” Preservation Nation Blog (3 December 2014).

What some people see when they look at Menokin is a collapsed house, an old ruin, a testament to the perils of ignoring preservation. What the staff and Board at Menokin see, however, is a cutting-edge preservation opportunity.

The Menokin Foundation does not want to restore the house to its original condition. Instead, the Foundation believes Menokin is more valuable to the public in pieces. Menokin was home to Declaration of Independence signer, Francis Lightfoot Lee. The land was given to Lee and his wife Rebecca Tayloe by his father-in-law as a wedding gift. The house was built around 1769. . . .


Re-imagining a Ruin: Exterior Structure Cutaway View

Dubbed the “Glass House Project,” the Foundation floated the idea around the preservation community. Pope says, “We started getting really positive responses to it. We got some raised eyebrows, believe me, but we came to [the] consensus that this was an approach worth pursuing.”

To design the Glass House Project, the Foundation hired world-renowned architecture firm Machado and Silvetti Associates in 2012.  Designing projects ranging from an addition to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art to the expansion of the Getty Villa, Machado and Silvetti focus on creating contemporary and innovative designs that merge with historic contexts. . . .

The Foundation is currently developing and implementing Phase 1 of the Glass House Project — to build a glass shell around the current remaining structure.

Menokin’s innovation does not just stop at glass. The Foundation’s ultimate goal for the site is to be an internationally known learning and teaching center. In a departure from many historic house museum models, Menokin does not want to focus solely on one story or one time period. The site will not just be a colonial relic, but a place that can have modern implications for, and showcase in a revolutionary way, preservation, history, architecture, and natural resources. . .

Meghan O’Connor is the member services assistant at the National Trust. She enjoys learning, writing, and talking about museums, art, architecture, and anything historic. She worked with Menokin on the museum’s historical interpretation as part of a graduate school class.

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Note (added 15 December 2014) — The original version of this posting included a photo from the original concept team; the current photos comes from the Menokin blog.

Phase II of the Conservation of Thornhill’s Painted Hall Announced

Posted in on site by Editor on November 30, 2014


Restoration of the West Wall of the Painted Hall at Greenwich, included in Phase I of the conservation project, was completed in the spring of 2013. Phase II is expected to begin in the summer of 2016.

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Press release, via Art Daily (29 November 2014). . .

The Heritage Lottery Fund today announced that it has earmarked funding of £2.77 million, including a development grant of £98,800, to The Greenwich Foundation towards its £7m scheme to complete the conservation of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC). This first round pass will enable the Foundation to proceed with it plans for the conservation of the remaining 3,700 square metres of paintings: one of the most ambitious painting conservation projects ever undertaken within a historic interior. It will also support improved interpretation and accessibility, the delivery of conservation skills training, and a programme of associated community, learning and public events including scaffolding tours which proved immensely popular during Phase I of the conservation.

Created in the early 18th century by Sir James Thornhill for Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital for Seamen, the spectacular, Grade 1 Listed, Painted Hall is one of Europe’s most important architectural interiors and is considered to be the greatest achievement of English Baroque art. Phase I of the conservation, which was also supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Foundation, saw the west wall and upper hall ceiling restored to their former glory [opened in May 2013]. Phase II will see the lower hall, with its spectacular ceiling, the entrance vestibule and cupola similarly restored.

Sue Bowers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London, said, “This Baroque masterpiece is one of the lesser-known treasures at the heart of the Greenwich World Heritage Site. HLF funded the first stage of restoration works and we are now delighted to support plans to complete the project.”

“This is absolutely wonderful news,” adds Brendan McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Greenwich Foundation. “Ever since the first phase of conservation was completed, we’ve been looking forward to restoring the rest of the Painted Hall and the HLF stage 1 pass has taken us a long way towards that—although much fundraising remains to be done. The next few months will be very interesting and great fun. There will be changing exhibitions, information, exciting talks and hands-on workshops as part of our overall approach to involving the public as the project develops. Phase II of the Painted Hall conservation will transform the experience of visiting and viewing this remarkable painted interior, and people can also be part of the exciting project by helping us to reach our £7m target.”

The Foundation will submit detailed project proposals, based on a feasibility study by Martin Ashley Architects, to HLF at the end of 2015 with a view to starting work on the project in the summer of 2016. The Painted Hall will be under scaffolding for around two years after the start of works, however the public will have access to the Hall, including on the scaffolding itself. Visitors—including wheelchair users—will be able to get close up to the painted surfaces and watch conservators at work—an exciting element of project.

Key elements of the Phase II programme include
• Cleaning and conservation of the remaining 3,700 square metres of painted wall surface, including the great ceiling in the Lower Hall, executed by James Thornhill between 1708 and 1712. This will remove layers of dirt and varnish, unlocking the colour and vibrancy of these great paintings. The work will be undertaken by Paine & Stewart, leading specialists in the conservation of historic wall paintings who also undertook the conservation work in Phase I.
• Re-presentation of the interior with improved lighting, new seating and interpretation.
• Introduction of environmental improvements to ensure the best possible conditions for the painted surfaces.
• Creation of a new, fully accessible visitor reception in the King William Undercroft with improved facilities, innovative interpretation, dedicated retail, and a new café.
• Improved visibility of the Painted Hall within the Discover Greenwich visitor centre, including a new audio-visual exhibit.

The conservation work is expected to be completed by the summer 2018 with the overall project completed the following year.

A masterpiece that was almost 20 years in the making
With over 4,250 square metres of painted surfaces, the Painted Hall was Thornhill’s most extensive commission, taking the artist almost 20 years to complete. In the dining hall proposed for the Royal Hospital for Seamen the artist was asked to create an homage to Britain’s maritime power and royal family. The astonishing ceiling of the lower hall shows the contribution the British navy made to the prosperity of the nation at the time of William III and Mary II, under during whose reign the Hospital was commissioned, and the Upper Hall ceiling features the last of the Stuart monarchs, Queen Anne, during whose reign the Lower Hall paintings were made. The allegorical theme of the huge and exuberant Lower Hall ceiling is the Triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny, and pays due tribute to Stuart monarchs William and Mary and British maritime power. Within the oval frame are the four seasons and other references to the passing of time including the signs of the zodiac. Beyond the arch in the Upper Hall Queen Anne surveys the continents of the world, while on the west wall her Hanoverian successors, George I and his family, are shown in sober glory. Elsewhere much use is made of trompe l’oeil painting, on the columns, windowsills and in the vestibule. During the period when he working on the painting Thornhill became court Painter to the new King, George I, and was subsequently knighted. After completion in 1727, the Greenwich pensioners moved their dining room to the undercrofts below, and the Hall became a popular visitor attraction with an admission price of 6d. In the early 19th century the Painted Hall became the home of the National Gallery of Naval Art—one of Britain’s first public art galleries. It was not used again as a dining room until 1936, when the paintings were moved to the newly-established National Maritime Museum.

Sir James Thornhill (1675–1734)
Born in Dorset in 1675, artist James Thornhill was to rise to become a court painter and sergeant painter to George I and George II, a master of the Painters’ Company and a fellow of the Royal Society. He was the first English painter to be knighted for his work, in 1720, and sat as a Member of Parliament for 12 years from 1722 until his death in 1734. The eight scenes in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral (1715–19) and the allegories in the Painted Hall, Royal Hospital for Seamen (1708–27), are his two most considerable commissions with the majority of his paintings largely executed on the ceilings and stairs of country houses and palaces such as Hampton Court, Blenheim, and Chatsworth. Among Thornhill’s few canvases are the altarpiece for St. Mary’s Parish Church, Weymouth, and a group portrait of the members of the House of Commons in which he was assisted by William Hogarth (who eloped with Thornhill’s daughter in 1729). Thornhill also made a number of portraits (his sitters including Sir Isaac Newton and co-founder of The Spectator Magazine, Richard Steele), book illustrations, theatre scenery, and the rose window of the north transept of Westminster Abbey. Thornhill’s works can be seen in collections across the globe including The Louvre, Paris; Metropolitan Museum, New York; and National Portrait Gallery, Tate, Royal Academy and Courtauld Institute, London.

Saving Mr. Turner’s Country Retreat

Posted in films, on site by Editor on November 3, 2014

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With the UK release of Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, the Turner House Trust hopes to raise the profile of the painter’s house in Twickenham, which badly needs restoration. From the press release (14 October 2014) . . .

There cannot be many people who are unaware of the imminent general release of Mike Leigh’s award-winning Mr Turner, the biographical film of one of the supreme masters of landscape, England’s JMW Turner. What is less widely known is that Turner might have pursued a different career as an architect and that he designed and built a country villa for use by himself and his father. Completed in 1813, Sandycombe Lodge near the Thames between Richmond and Twickenham, was Turner’s retreat to escape the hectic London art world and the hurly-burly of his own household.

Mike Leigh together with actors Timothy Spall, highly praised for his portrayal of Turner, Paul Jesson as Turner’s father and Nick Jones as Sir John Soane, visited this three-dimensional Turner creation in the early stages of their work on the film.

Although the film is set later in Turner’s life, the director and actors wanted to learn as much as possible about the man behind the pictures. From here he would sketch along the Thames on foot, fish on the river and occasionally entertain his friends including Sir John Soane, architect and fellow-fisherman, whose influence is apparent throughout Sandycombe.

Grade 2* listed Turner’s House is largely unspoilt apart from some later additions, but seriously threatened by damp and long neglect it is now on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register and badly in need of restoration.

Turner’s House Trust is appealing to the nation for help to save it from dereliction. “With additional damage caused by extreme weather conditions in recent years, this is now urgent. We have generous promises of grants and funding, which we must match in order to proceed,” said Catherine Parry-Wingfield, chairman of Turner’s House Trust. “With every pound we are closer to saving this Turner ‘treasure’ for future generations, but we still have a long way to go. We hope that, as this new film will no doubt inspire people to visit the artist’s wonderful masterpieces in our galleries, they will also support a lasting legacy for his country home to be enjoyed by future generations.”

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Note (added 7 January 2016) An update on the project is available here: Farah Nayerijan, “An Effort to Save J.M.W. Turner’s Country House,” The New York Times (4 January 2016).


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