28 October 2008
Our Gothic Drawing Room, decorated to the designs of AWN Pugin in 1849 contains six tapestries, which combine to give the room its rich and warm atmosphere. Four of them came from Wimpole Hall, the former home of the Earls of Hardwicke, one of whose daughters married the Second Earl Somers and brought the tapestries with her.
It is wonderful to have them. But the problem with tapestries is that they are vulnerable to damage from light and, in museum conditions, would be kept at very low levels of lighting, so that it would be hard to appreciate their beauty. One of our tapestries, showing the Battle of Arbela, now referred more accurately as Gaugamela, in 331BC, has suffered in this way over the years. The sun has shone on part of it through a gap in the blinds, and the ultraviolet rays have cut the silk so there is a noticeable tear. There has been some fading of the colours too and it is in need of a good clean.
This year, we decided to have it restored. We first had a reproduction made by a process using a photograph to print its image onto linen so we could use the "fake" to fill the gap on the wall. The original has now been removed and its currently in Belgium where it was woven in Flanders. It will be back early next year and should look much better. I only hope it does not make the other five look too scruffy as a result.