Tag Archives: painting conservation project

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 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 http://on.fb.me/171AsJC and twitter http://bit.ly/1vkZmiO pages.



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.


All set!

Thanks to Alistair and Mark’s hard work, the platform is now complete and The Mystic Marriage has been moved to its temporary home in the Chapel Royal.

Thus far the painting is proving to be a rather reclusive resident, as it is still under wraps and will remain so until it has acclimatised to its new surroundings. Best keep an eye out, however, for the painting will be revealed sometime within the next few weeks—we hope you are as excited as we are!

In the meantime, take a wee peek at the shiny new space as pictured below, and be sure to drop by the Chapel Royal throughout the process to watch it all happen in person.


The painting awaits conservation in the Chapel Royal


Preparing for the Painting

Alistair and Mark have been busy making the platform that the painting will be on while it is getting work done in the Chapel Royal (no nose jobs for Catharine Henry!)

This space will ensure that the painting will have enough room while allowing the public to see what is going on.


The platform takes shape

Thankfully the local congregation are 100% behind the project and don’t mind losing a 20 chairs for a few months!

The staff have been wondering what the boys will do with all that wood once the project is completed, decking anyone?


Mark observing his work

Paint Sampling and UV lights

After the doors of Falkland Palace were closed the project team flew into action!

A back board was made for the painting to help support it and make it easier to move into the Chapel Royal from the Tapestry Gallery.


The painting is very large (over 2x2m) on solid wood, with old metal brackets on the back the painting was also extremely heavy and required the help of the T&S team.

The protective conservation covering was taken off to allow Henry and Gail to take paint samples. This will give them a better idea of what the paint contains chemically and how best to treat it.



They also had a look at the painting with a UV light. This enabled them to see the different layers of paint and retouching over the last 400 years, fascinating!

In the end it took the team 6 hours to make the board, unwarp the painting, attach the painting to the board, take paint samples, do a UV check and wrap up the painting again, phew!