Category Archives: Painting Conservation

Conservation of the Mystic Marriage Completed

After several months of conservation work on The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria with Saint Apollonia is now completed and looking better than ever.

The painting has gone through various stages of cleaning, consolidating, conserving, careful moving St Appolonia's faceand wrapping to now be seen in it’s original glory.

Throughout this project visitors to the Palace have been able to see conservation work in action in the Chapel Royal and ask questions which had visitors coming back again and again to see how the work was progressing.

489 visitors from all over the world also left comments in our book:

“Excellent idea to be able to see expertise at work on site. Well done and thank you”

“Very impressive-very well explained”

“Fascinating and inspiring to learn that such restoration skills still exist in the 21st century!”

“Friendly and knowledgeable guide, thank you!”

“I’ll be back”

“Awesome visit loved it here can’t wait to come back!”

blog painting

The painting was first seen hung in it’s original place at the end of the Tapestry Gallery at our Christmas Weekend, surrounded by Christmas trees which was truly magical.

Wendy, Geri, Aisha and the rest of the team at Falkland Palace and Gardens would like to say a big thank you to everyone who made this project possible; Henry Matthews, Gail Egan, Julie Bon, Alistair Smith, Jane Batty, T&S and the volunteers at the Palace.

Day 109- The End is in Sight

The team are nearing the end of the painting conservation project after months of pain staking work.

Recently Gail and Henry have been filling in cracks in the wooden panel with plaster and painting over the plaster to bring the painting back to it’s former, unified glory.

After a coat of varnish they will assess the paint work as the varnish makes the details easier to see.

The varnish layer is then left to dry for a few days and in a weeks time the painting will finally be ready to be wrapped up once more and moved into the Tapestry Gallery to climatize before re-hanging.


Day 45- Whole Again

The project is now in it’s 6th week and the team are entering the next phase of conservation.

The painting was recently turned on it’s face and Gail and Henry have been working on the woodworm damage on the back of the painting, which they have now completed.

Painting turned

The painting is now face up and visitors can see up close the cracks that have occurred in the wooden panel over the last 500 years.

Gail and Henry are filling these cracks with a special plaster just below the surface of the painting so as not to lose any of the original paintwork.


Some of the edges of the painting have also been filled with the plaster as the woodworm damage has been particularly savage along the grain here.

Now that the painting is cleaned and one solid, smooth surface a hint of how magnificent this painting will look once the project is completed is starting to show.

The next stage will be to sit the painting upright against it’s special designed supports and to work on the re-touching of the plaster work.


Day 22- Structural Work

Work has begun on the back of The Mystic Marriage this week after it was was carefully moved by professional art handlers T&S yesterday.

The thick wooden panel has a woodworm problem which conservators Henry and Gail are now addressing by injecting synthetic resin and micro balloons into the holes they have left.


This will not only kill off the pests but also add structural strength to the panel.


Henry and Gail said “We are very pleased with the progress we have made so far and the overwhelming interest  visitors have in the project. We are enjoying engaging with the public and explaining what we are doing”.

Day 11- Varnish No More

Conservators Gail and Henry have been working hard to remove 500 years of layered varnishes and over paint to The Mystic Marriage. This rare Brini painting (1570) has been on show to the public for nearly two weeks in the Chapel Royal, as it has been undergoing some much needed conservation work.

Visitors, staff and the local media have greatly enjoyed watching the painting come to life through this unusual conservation project.

fingers 2

Painstaking cleaning using cotton buds and organic solvents has revealed the exquisite original colours and paintwork, as well as highlighting the plaster repair work that has been carried out over the last half century, to fill in cracks in the wood.

full 2

Now that the painting has been cleaned the next phase of treatment will be structural repair work to the wooden panel. This will involve lying the painting horizontally on it’s specially designed support boards and also tackling the wood worm problem.

This beautiful painting is finally getting the TLC it desperately needs and we are thrilled to be able to share this conservation project directly with the public, which is a first for the NTS.

To see the next stages of this fascinating project, keep checking back to this blog or visit our facebook and twitter pages.



WWI Rememberance- Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart

On this day in 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and throwing the Empire into the first world wide conflict. We take a moment today to remember the people who lost their lives and loved ones.

Falkland House
Lord Ninian
was the second son of John Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. The 3rd Marquess restored Falkland Palace  when he became Keeper in1887. Both lived at Falkland House which is not far from Falkland Palace. Their descendant, Ninian, is the current Keeper of the Palace. 

In 1912 Lord Ninian took command of the 6th Battalion, the Welsh Regiment.

On the 2nd of October 1915 while leading the 6th Welsh in a night attack on the Hohenzollern Rebout, near La Bassee he lost his life in battle.

Below a copy of the article detailing his life and death which featured in The Fife Falkland VillageNews. This text would have circulated around the village and Estate of Falkland as well as the other local villages, who knew Lord Ninian as such a prominent member of society. No doubt this would have been a great shock to Lady Ninian and the community of Falkland in particular after the many losses they had already endured.


Article from The Fife News titled Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart, M.P., Killed in Night Attack:

A deep gloom was cast over the whole county of Fife, and Falkland in particular, when the sad news arrived that Lieut-Colonel Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart, M.P., for Cardiff, and the laird of Falkland estate, had been killed on Sunday 3rd October 1915, while leading his regiment, the 6th Batt. Welsh Territorial Regiment, in a night attack on the Hohenzollern redoubt, 2 ½ miles south-west of La Bassee. It was the fifth attack his Lordship had led in order to rescue from the enemy his friend, Major R.G. Browning, who was missing and a prisoner.

Lord Ninian and Wife


The second son of the third Marquess of Bute, Lord Ninian was born on 15th May 1883, at Dumfries House, Ayrshire. He was married on 16th June 1906 to the Hon. Ismay Lucretia Mary Preston, daughter of the late 14th Viscount Gormanston. After taking up his permanent residence at House of Falkland, Lord Ninian was elected a member of Fife County Council. He devoted himself especially to agriculture, and was referred to as “the farmers’ friend”. He was mainly instrumental in getting the Highland Show of 1912 brought to Cupar. On 14th March 1915, a son and heir was born to Lord and Lady Ninian, while his Lordship was in France.

Lord Ninian then said: – “The greatest honour a man can receive is that he has been Ninian Statueprovided with a chance to give, if need be, the greatest that he has – which is his life – for his country. I do not doubt every man in this parade will give it as willingly as I mean to give it myself.”

In Falkland and district, Lord Ninian, with Lady Ninian, did much to brighten the life of the whole community. Football, cricket, and golf found every encouragement at the House of Falkland, where, also, a memorable series of historic tableaux was submitted for the entertainment of all classes a few years ago. The inhabitants of Ladybank likewise recall the gift by Lord Ninian of a flagstaff and handsome Union Jack for their public park and the great demonstration by aeroplanes, Boy Scouts, and school children on the day on which the flag was unfurled. His Lordship’s participation in these and many other beneficent services has now become a memory.

He has been cut down while still young, with rare prospects before him. He did not tearCrichton Wedding himself thoughtlessly from a happy home and devoted wife and family. He counted the cost, and deliberately chose to take all risks for his country. On his departure for the front, he wrote privately to a friend – “I may lose my life; but I will not lose my honour.” He has kept his word. He has lost his life; but his honour shines brighter than ever. He is the last of a noble trio – Major Slacke, Captain Hanbury Tracy, and himself – who were so recently associated with each other in all that meant peace and goodwill to Falkland and district; and it is hard to realise that these brave men will no more be seen in and out amongst us. The greatest sympathy is expressed for Lady Ninian and her three children.”

Falkland Village



Day 3- Paint Analysis

Over the last three days specialist conservators Gail and Henry have been carefully removing layers of discoloured varnish and dirt to reveal the true colours of the painting.

Both Henry and Gail believe that understanding the composition of the painting structure will greatly help them in deciding the most appropriate treatment to be carried out on the picture.

What was thought to be pale green turns out to be beautiful powder blue. What was once a dirty orange is bright gold.

Extra detail lost under the centuries of varnish is being revealed, in amazing colour such as the tiny face on the front of ST Appolonia’s dress and the delicate veil on her hair.

Technical analysis of the paint layers by Glasgow University Department of Technical Art History has identified pigments commonly used in the 15th and 16th centuries, as we had hoped to find.

Element Chart

200x UV


SamplePotential for further investigation into the paints used and the wood on which the subject is painted.

Visitors have been enthralled by being able to see the conservation work in action:

“Wonderful to see such an amazing process” Susan Walker

“A painstaking venture but will be stunning once finished” C. R from Kinross

Property Manager, Wendy Purvis said: “I’ve been spell bound by the process which has revealed the original paint. How fascinating it is to watch conservators at work and learn about the process as it happens live. This is the sort of thing that would normally happen behind closed doors but to see it every day is a real privilege.”

Project Manager, Julie Bon added “It has been exciting to be involved in this unique project. There’s been a lot of hard work put into the preparation and it’s great to see the painting and the conservation work in action in full view of the visitors.”

Come and see Gail and Henry at work in the Chapel Royal at 4pm on the 4th of August. Photos and interviews will be available with conservators Gail and Henry, Wendy Purvis, Falkland Palace Property Manager and Julie Bon, Trust Conservator and project manager.

Day 1- Cleaning the Painting

Work began on removing 500 years of varnish, retouching paint and dirt today by Henry and Gail.

Visitors and staff were astounded by the obvious difference in colour and tones that can already be seen.

St Appalonia

We had a pleasant surprise when we realised that the cream sleeve of St Catherine was in fact a beautiful baby pink!

St Catherine

The parts of the painting that have already been cleaned are starting to look as fresh as the day they were painted, incredible!



Let the work begin!

Spotted in the Chapel Royal: The Mystic Marriage has emerged from its packaging! With the painting unwrapped and the studio space installed, the much-anticipated conservation work can finally begin.


The Mystic Marriage revealed.

As of next Monday, Henry and Gail will be hard at work in the Chapel Royal. Come on over if you’re interested in seeing conservation in action! Until then, you can check out the lovely interpretation set up around the studio space, which will let you know a bit more about the painting and the ongoing process.


The studio space awaits Henry and Gail’s arrival.