Conservation of a Portrait of Lady Hunloke

5th April 2023

The conservation of a second painting by Daniel Gardner from the Cannon Hall Museum collection began in February 2023 at paper conservation studio, Artworks Conservation in Harrogate, thanks to funds from supporters of Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust.

The portrait is of Margaret Roberts Hunloke, née Coke whose niece, Elizabeth Coke, married John Spencer Stanhope of Cannon Hall. Gardner had an unusual technique of mixing oil and pastel and applying this to paper before attaching the paper to canvas.  

Richard Hawkes ACR from Artworks Conservation Ltd sent us this progress report.

‘It was exciting to remove the back from the frame for the first time in possibly over 200 years as, although the dust seals had been reinforced, there was no evidence that it had been opened since first being framed. The old, mouth-blown glazing and backboard were still taped into the frame with blue, ‘sugar’ paper typical of the period. 

The frame might have been adjusted to fit the painting as the wide rebate covered a good two centimetres of the top edge. Removing the painting from the frame has revealed the detail of the moulding around the rim of the stone urn behind the sitter.  The painting appears to have evolved in size during its creation meaning that strips of paper were added to enlarge the lower edge and the painting runs over onto exposed areas of the canvas which is typical of Gardner’s work.  

Unframing a 200-year-old painting can also reveal many decades of accumulated dirt and dust and the feeling is slightly akin to opening Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Needless to say, the surface dirt has now been carefully removed by conservator, Catriona Whiteside.

Unlike the previous painting conserved here last year, the portrait of Lady Jane Coke (née Dutton), the paint surface is in much better condition although still very vulnerable to flaking and loss. The next step of the treatment will see the removal of areas of mould from the surface of the paint layer followed by a process of consolidation of any lifting paint and re-instating of some losses. The frame will be conserved separately by frame conservator, Mike Howden ACR, before the painting is re-united and fitted back into the frame with additional isolating and barrier layers to ensure its protection for another 200 years.’

Richard Hawkes ACR
Artworks Conservation Ltd

Conservation of a Portrait of Lady Hunloke