This panel belonging to the Baroque masterpiece that is the State Dining Room ceiling at Stowe House has been recreated by the team at Chroma Conservation.
It represents the culmination of what has been an incredible six months up on the scaffold to restore the entire ceiling, coving and cornice and what an honour and privilege it has been for us to execute the conservation of this unique and truly incredible example of the 18th century Italian artist Francesco Sleter’s genius.
The team have travelled back in time to 1750 to effectively shadow the artist and his assistants who originally created this fine work. Retracing their steps to understand how they went about designing, drawing and painting. To be so close as to discover some original under sketching beneath the masterly strokes of the brush and most of all sympathetically ensuring that this previously failing and fragile marvel be rescued for generations to come. A very humbling experience.
Every moulding, brush stroke and gilded quatrefoil has been consolidated and cleaned. All cracks have been carefully filled and all paint losses expertly retouched.
This particular panel had suffered badly from water ingress and three quarters of the original 1750 plaster had failed and collapsed. It had subsequently been unsympathetically patched with an ill fitting piece of fibrous plaster board which had been washed over with earth colours only, see the before and after photographs below.
We removed this panel, reinforced the joists above with noggins to allow us to fix stainless steel Expamet mesh lath on top of the original wooden laths. The large central missing area of the panel was professionally re plastered with lime. We then painted it with mist coats and under coated it in the raw sienna colour background, drew in the arabesque design with graphite pencil and our decorative artist expertly hand painted the details in to blend with the small areas which were not destroyed. The quatrefoils were hand drawn and gilded with 23.5 carat gold leaf. After this we distressed and antiqued the freshly applied design to compliment the surrounding original ceiling panels.
We hope that Francesco Sleter would approve.
Photographs and video by Andy Marshall