28 March 2017

18th century portraits return to Wrest Park after 100 years

Five portraits return to Wrest Park 100 years after being purchased and conserved by English Heritage
Two men hang the portrait of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent

Five portraits will be rehung at Wrest Park for the first time in 100 years after being purchased and conserved by English Heritage.

The paintings include family portraits of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, and two of his children, as well as two that came into the collection through his marriage to Jemima Crew. They feature Jemima's father Thomas Crew, 2nd Baron of Stene, and sister Armine Crew.

The new collection will be on display to the public in the Library, the Countess' Sitting Room and the Billiard Room from Wednesday 29 March. This coincides with the Wrest Park's new daily opening times for the spring and summer season.

Rachel Turnbull inspects the paintings before they are put on the wall

CONSERVING CENTURIES OF HISTORY

English Heritage acquired the paintings in 2015. The paintings have spent the past two years at our conservation studio in London undergoing intricate cleaning work including the removal of thick layers of dirt and the refitting of frames. Some had not been treated for a number of years.

Particularly extensive work was required for the portrait of Kent's son, Henry. It is believed the painting was once removed from its frame and wooden stretcher and either folded or rolled, causing creases or tears which have now been retouched.

Dr Pete Moore, Curator of Collections for English Heritage, said:

'It is incredibly exciting to see these paintings returning home to Wrest Park. Not only will they greatly enhance the historic interiors at Wrest for the benefit of visitors, they will also enable us to tell the interlinked stories of the house and gardens more effectively.

'It seems fitting that the portrait of Henry Grey, who was so instrumental in the development of the landscape, will now once again be looking out over the gardens he loved so much.'

Two men carry a protected portrait of a daughter of Henry, 1st Duke of Kent

Kent was a hugely important figure in the history of the gardens at Wrest. His improvements to the extensive grounds during the early 18th century laid the foundations for the landscape we see today.

Rachel Turnbull, Senior Conservator for English Heritage, said:

'We've worked incredibly hard to restore these five paintings to their former glory and it's a real privilege to see them being returned to Wrest Park.

'When the portraits arrived with us they didn't appear to have had any treatment for a number of years and were a bit unloved. They were very dark and quite yellow, but we've been able to remove multiple layers of old varnish and dirt to reveal vivid colours and lovely portraits.'

The portraits hanging once more on the walls

Four of the paintings were sold by Wrest Park's former owner, Nan Herbert, at her sale of the Wrest Park collection at Christies in London in November 1917. The portrait of Thomas Crew was gifted to Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe in memory of Nan's brother, Auberon Thomas Herbert.

Wrest Park is open 10am to 4pm this Wednesday until Friday. From Saturday 1 April it will be open daily from 10am to 6pm throughout spring and summer.

Find out more about conserving paintings with our behind the scenes video.

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