In an earlier posting, I mentioned that our Brussels tapestry showing the Battle of Gaugamela (formerly known as Battle of Arbela), which took place in 331BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III, had been sent off for repair. It was due to take about a year, but in the end it stayed away nearly 18 months. But the result was worth waiting for.
Alison Lister of Textile Conservation Limited and her team had a big job to do. First it had its lining and wall fittings removed and was sent for washing a the Royal Manufacturers De Wit at Mechelen in Belgium, that was wet cleaning, carried out on a large suction table using special detergent and soft water. We do not have any similar process available in the UK.
The tapestry was then relined and repaired, where there had been earlier patching. Many broken warps were reinforced by inserting new, colour-matched woollen threads, and new Velcro tape attached for attaching to the wall. It was still a perfect fit, despite the washing and repairs (I may think of sending my jerseys for the same treatment, although the delay and cost would be inconvenient), and it looks much cleaner and stronger.
The replica we had printed has been sold back to the supplier, who hopes to find a home for it elsewhere. No-one complained while the genuine article was away. Some may grumble now, however, as we have been advised to keep light levels as low as possible, so it may not always be easy to admire the excellent quality of the work of restoration.
JH-B 12th September 2010