A MAJOR new conservation project is underway at Petworth House and Park.
Like other historic properties, the imposing and much-revered 17th-century ‘house of art’ regularly commissions conservation work on objects in its collection.
But this six-month project is among the most significant painting conservation treatments ever undertaken on behalf of the National Trust.
Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Macbeth and the Witches is often viewed as one of the ‘gloomiest’ and ‘dullest’ artworks in the collection.
Curator of collections and exhibitions at Petworth House, Andy Loukes said: “For many years the darkened appearance of his painting has understandably given visitors the impression that our collection is uncared for.
“All the processes will be fully reversible, but the improvements will last for generations.”
Hanging prominently in the stately Square Dining Room, the conservation will be no small task.
The largest piece in the historic house and the largest and most expensive commission ever from the artist, The Witches conservation project will cost around £30,000 to complete.
The investment is made possible from donations and raffle-ticket sales, with the shortfall made up by resources put aside by Petworth House.
The vast canvas depicts three stages of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Sophie Reddington, the conservator, said: “No painting of this size has ever come to my studio. The fact the canvas needs to be taken off the stretcher to roll onto a tube, as it would not fit through any door or window or to get into my studio, is quite unusual.”