Conservator at Salisbury Cathedral discovers painting on underside of Mompesson Tomb

By Ruth Hazard | 15 March 2012
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A picture of a tomb with two effigies laying across the base and an arch over them decorated in black gold and turquoise
Salisbury Cathedral has unearthed a monument to 17th century craftsmanship
The conservator of Salisbury Cathedral has discovered a 17th century polychromed Coat of Arms on the reverse of a stone in the Mompesson Tomb.

The monument to Sir Richard Mompesson and his wife Katherine is an elaborate large wall and tomb chest made from painted and gilded Chilmark stone. It was built after Richard’s death in 1627 and effigies of the couple lay at the base.

While conducting his latest round of practical conservation work, Dave Henson noticed the picture on the underside of the stone that supports the Coat of Arms at the top and front of the monument. The blazoning of the two Coats of Arms is almost identical.

"The Coat of Arms on the reverse of the monument is important historically and artistically, and quite rare," says polychrome expert Peter Martindale.

A picture of a coat of arms on the back of a stone
The polychrome coat of arms was spotted on the underside of the stone
“It appears not to have undergone a programme of treatment since being painted, its condition seems good, and it is therefore a valuable witness to the methods and materials of the time.”

It is thought the discovery could be a "draft" painting of the Coat of Arms found on the front of the armorial. It covers the entire rear of the top section of the tomb, but is the only painting that has been found on the back. 

Peter Martindale has recommended that five paint samples should be taken for analysis, three from the back and two from the outward facing side of the tomb.

This should determine what similarities there are between the two painted Coat of Arms. 

Experts from The Church Monuments Society and Church Buildings Council in London are in the process of researching the historical and artistic significance of this polychrome Coat of Arms.
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