300-Year-Old Trick Paintings To Be Protected

By David Prudames | 16 August 2002
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inspecting the eighteenth century paintings

Left: inspecting the eighteenth century paintings. © English Heritage

Rare 300-year-old trompe l'oeil wall paintings adorning the interior of Wrest Park's Baroque pavilion are to be conserved using state of the art techniques.

The paintings at the Bedfordshire Park were created in the illusionist style c.1712 by French artist Louis Hauduroy and remain the only example of his work on public view in England.

"The survey will involve detailed examination and recording using a variety of techniques such as ultraviolet illumination, and scientific analysis of paint samples," explained Robert Gowing, English Heritage Senior Wall Painting Conservator.

designed to decieve the eye, the paintings appear three-dimensional

Right: designed to decieve the eye, the paintings appear three-dimensional. © English Heritage

"In addition to aiding in its future preservation, the project offers an invaluable opportunity to gain a better understanding of English Baroque painting techniques and may shed new light on the otherwise little-known works of Hauduroy in this country."

Trompe l'oeil wall paintings deceive the eye, making objects appear three-dimensional. This style was made popular in the eighteenth century and can be seen in many of the period's buildings.

The depicted imagery of mythological figures, coats-of-arms and monumental classical pillars reflects the secular style revered by the period's English patrons and deployed by the foreign artists who dominated aristocratic life.

the Pavilion designed and built by architect Thomas Archer

Left: the Pavilion designed and built by architect Thomas Archer. © English Heritage Photograhic Library

This work is part of a research project into the pavilion's general condition, which will cost English Heritage around £30,000.

"This project is essential to protect and conserve the Pavilion at Wrest Park, which is one of the finest and grandest Baroque buildings in the country," added Mike Sutherill, English Heritage Project Facilities Manager for the East of England.

The Pavilion was built between 1709 and 1711 by Thomas Archer at the request of Henry de Grey, Duke of Kent whose family would once have made use of its basement kitchen and 'secret' heating system to entertain their friends.

Archer was known for building the north front of Chatsworth, Derbyshire and the London churches of St Paul, Deptford and St John, Smith Square.

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