A 16th century portrait of an important Tudor lady-in-waiting is back on display at Ordsall Hall, Salford’s Tudor house and museum, following restoration.
The much-loved portrait ‘Lady in a Court Dress’ has been rehung in the Great Chamber of Ordsall Hall after four years away. Since then, funds have been raised for conservation work that has made some fascinating revelations.
Previously very little was known about the portrait, which had been on show in Salford for over 40 years and become a favourite feature for visitors.
It is thanks to a generous donation from Salford developer ForLiving, the ethical landlord behind the riverside community Dock 5 just down the road from Ordsall Hall.
Peter Ogilvie, Collections Manager, Salford Museum & Art Gallery, said: “The painting has been away from the hall for over four years and has been greatly missed by the public and staff alike. The Court Lady has always been regarded as part of the fabric of the Hall, so it is fabulous to have her back and looking so good as well.
“Without this opportunity, we would not have been in the position to learn more about the content and development of the painting. For instance, we now know from X-rays that she once had a necklace of pearls which accounts for the unusual position of her right hand.”
As well as the meticulous 12-step restoration process carried out by freelance painting conservator Rebecca Kench ACR, the curators have also taken the opportunity to find out more about the mysterious sitter.
Studying the design of the lady-in-waiting’s dress has revealed that the portrait very likely dates from 1590-1600. It is a similar design to other portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, who was a popular painter by the end of Elizabeth I’s reign and who is believed to have inspired the portrait.
With this date, it also makes the oil portrait one of the first to feature a sitter wearing the unusual black silk cord and ‘ring’ on her left wrist. This piece of jewellery appears in other portraits by Gheeraerts and his contemporaries from around ten years later, including of Anne of Denmark and Elizabeth Southwell, a maid of honour to Elizabeth I.
Combined with the discovery of the pearl necklace, the curators are even more sure their ‘Lady in a Court Dress’, attributed to a British School artist, was someone important.
Peter Ogilvie added: “Thanks to the generosity of ForLiving and their investment in the community of Ordsall, we have managed to get our painting repaired.”
Speaking about working on the oil-on-board painting, the conservator Rebecca Kench ACR said: “It’s been lovely having the panel in the studio. Retouching the join to match the 1950’s varnish was a challenge, but she looks beautiful now she’s finished.”
Mark Edwards, Strategic Lead at ForLiving, added: “We really hope news of the restored portrait will capture the imagination of local people.
“People are at the centre of everything we do at ForLiving, so it’s great to know how much this means to the Salford community. I can also say how much the residents at Dock 5 have enjoyed getting to know Ordsall Hall through the events we have held there.”
Now run and managed by Salford Community Leisure, Ordsall Hall is one of the UK’s best examples of Tudor architecture in the UK. The portrait is on view now in the Great Chamber and the Tudor mansion is open from Sunday to Thursday and is free to visit.
For more information, contact Catriona Gilmore at Hough Bellis Communications on 07531 757664 or email email@example.com.
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