Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Belgian Bath Helps Restore Tapestry Masterpiece To Its Former Glory

A priceless 18th century tapestry depicting one of Britain’s most important military victories has been restored to its former glory following a major restoration project.

The Bouchain III tapestry, which is 25ft wide and almost 15 feet high, is part of a set of 10 hanging in the state rooms at Blenheim Palace, commissioned by the first Duke of Marlborough to mark his victory over Louis XIV in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Collectively, the tapestries are known as ‘The Victories of the Duke of Marlborough’ and the series took about eight years to complete (c1709-1717).

As well as being a stunning military victory it is also considered a turning point in history, signalling the end of France’s ambitions to rule Europe.

The giant wall hangings are made of wool and silk and were woven in the Brussels workshop of the Flemish weaver, Judocus de Vos. 

They are the most accurate and detailed contemporary records that exist of these of the campaign, not least because the 1st Duke, John Churchill, provided accurate battle plans and portraits of the principal characters. 

After being painstakingly removed from the walls of the Palace’s Second State Room, the tapestry was carefully rolled up before being transported back to the city it was originally created in for renovation.

Blenheim Palace’s House Manager, Kate Ballenger, who is overseeing the restoration work said: “The tapestry was taken to a team of restoration experts based in Brussels.

“After being unpacked, and following a thorough examination, it was submerged in a large bath and gently washed to remove the dirt.

“There were a number of splits in the sky as well as silk loss in several sections. These were repaired and a new support was added to the back to strengthen the wool and silk.

“The tapestry had also been previously hung on poppers but these were removed and Velcro was added. This enables quick and safe removal of the tapestries in case of emergency,” she added.

At the time the victory was hailed as the greatest British military success since Agincourt and a grateful nation built Blenheim Palace to recognise the Duke’s achievements.

The First Duke’s descendant, Sir Winston Churchill, said the ‘victory at Blenheim changed the political axis of the world’.

The latest restoration is part of an ongoing programme of work being carried out on the series which will eventually see all 10 panels being removed, cleaned and repaired.

“These tapestries are both an extraordinary record of an historic military victory which had a crucial effect both on Europe and the rest of the world as well as stunning works of art,” added Kate.

“This essential restoration work is returning them to their former glory and helping to protect them for future generations to enjoy,” she added.

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