In this second blog post on Conservation in Action, Katie Langridge reflects on what has been uncovered in the newly discovered Map Room at Eltham Palace as the team comes to the end of phase one and highlights how you can help make phase two happen
Missed part one? Read it here.
We are nearing the end of phase one of the Map Room project. All the layers of overpaint and wallpaper have been removed and after nearly 80 years, we are finally starting to see what this fascinating room would have looked like to Ginie and Stephen Courtauld, the once owners of Eltham Palace.
We have had some really exciting finds over the last few months; next to the geological map we have an erupting volcano, whilst the map of London is surrounded by planes, St Paul’s Cathedral and a beautiful shield of the city of London with a Union Jack flag. Perhaps our favourites though are the two reindeer pulling a sleigh through the icy landscape above Iceland.
Not only have we uncovered these beautiful illustrations, we can also relate a little bit more to the artist who painted them. Once the overpaint was removed we were able to start cleaning away more of the darkened yellow varnish layer. This helped bring the colours to life and we could also see the tiny details. If you look closely, you can see the pencil marks made by the artist and where they had changed their mind; a camel’s leg in a different position, a lighthouse in a different place. Although we don’t yet know who the artist was, it is possible to imagine them in the map room with the light streaming through the window, sketching the images and deciding what to put where.
So what happens next? Now that the room is uncovered we can reassess the condition and start plans for phase two of the project. As the paintings are all on lining paper it is incredibly fragile and there will be a lot more consolidation needed to ensure the maps and paintings are stable and intact. The next step will then be colour matching and retouching the smaller losses and reintegrating the bigger losses to bring the map room back to its former 1930s glory!
We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received so far and have loved speaking to everyone who came and visited us; it has been exciting for us to be able to share our discoveries with you as they happen.
Protected for the future
Thanks to donations from the public, the fragile maps and murals have been painstakingly uncovered and protected, enabling them to be displayed to visitors.
Find out more about how donations support important projects at English Heritage.
Read part one of the story here.