Stourhead’s ‘School of Athens’ to be conserved

Steve Clare, from Holy Well, inspecting the work needed to the lunette window at Stourhead (c) National Trust / Alison Holmes

The National Trust team at Stourhead has commissioned Holy Well Glass, based in Wells, to carry out repairs and conservation work to the lunette window in the library in Stourhead House.

The lunette window was painted by Francis Eginton in 1803 and is based on Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’ depicting the greatest thinkers of the classical world.  It was commissioned by Richard Colt Hoare and designed specifically for Stourhead.

The painted window lunette by Francis Eginton after Raphael's 'The School of Athens' in the Library at Stourhead, Wiltshire (c)National Trust Images / John Hammond

The painted window lunette by Francis Eginton after Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’ in the Library at Stourhead, Wiltshire (c)National Trust Images / John Hammond

The lunette window was created by painting the four faces of two individual panes of thin glass, which were then kiln-fired to fuse the paint to the glass surface. The two completed panes were sandwiched together and pressed into linseed oil putty beds within a metal frame. The image being built up in this way produced a depth of field and colour which is extraordinary and attractive.

Steve Clare from Holy Well Glass said: ‘My team is looking forward to the challenge of conserving this remarkable glass. Eginton’s unique method, with several layers of painted glass less than 1mm thick placed together, will test the skills of our conservators.’

Close up of lunette window by Francis Eginton at Stourhead © National Trust / Alison Holmes

Close up of lunette window by Francis Eginton at Stourhead © National Trust / Alison Holmes

Holy Well Glass are using scaffolding to access the window, which sits 8 meters high, to access the panes which need conservation work. The panels will be extracted by removing the historic linseed putty, packed in special trays to be carried down the scaffold and transported to the conservation studio. There they will be conserved before being returned later in the year.

In the past repairs were made by smearing putty into the crack, or by using puddles of glue to fix the shattered glass onto newer glass. All the old putty and glue will be removed and the panes cleaned. The cracks will then be supported with a special conservation adhesive to ensure they are stable for the next 200 years.

Commenting on the conservation project, Alison Holmes, Stourhead’s House Steward said: ‘This is a very exciting project to conserve such a distinctive part of Stourhead and will be an amazing opportunity to see the unique construction and detail of the window up close.

Steve Clare, from Holy Well, inspecting the work needed to the lunette window at Stourhead (c) National Trust / Alison Holmes

Steve Clare, from Holy Well, inspecting the work needed to the lunette window at Stourhead (c) National Trust / Alison Holmes

‘The conservation project will start on 13th June and is due to last for three months, with the panes expected to arrive back at Stourhead and be reinstated in September. Throughout the project, the library will remain open for Stourhead’s visitors to enjoy and offering the chance for to see what it takes to care for this special place.’

For more information on Stourhead please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead/

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