A team of specialist conservators have begun a pilot phase of conservation on two large wall paintings in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords.
Painted by the Irish artist Daniel Maclise (1806-70), 'The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo' (1861) and 'The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar' (1866) were created using a technique called waterglass.
Developed in Germany, the technique involved painting onto dry plaster and then fixing the pigments with a sprayed solution of potassium silicate (known as ‘waterglass’). Outside of Germany, the Palace of Westminster was one of the only locations where waterglass was used for large wall paintings.
Both 'Waterloo' and 'Trafalgar' have a long history of restoration, and have remains of unsuitable surface coatings, water staining, paint abrasion and poor quality retouching.
Recent research and tests – undertaken in collaboration with Cologne University of Applied Sciences – indicate that the presentation of the wall paintings can be significantly improved through a combination of conservation treatment and specialist lighting.
The conservation team consists of UK-based specialist wall paintings conservators and a wall paintings conservation MA student from Cologne University of Applied Sciences.
If the pilot (which runs 4–15 December) is successful, a phased programme of conservation will be undertaken over the next 2–3 years.
Image: Detail of 'The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar' by Daniel Maclise, 1866 (Parliamentary Art Collection, WOA 3247)