The Windsor House Sitting Room Murals

(Above) Four stages of conservation: clockwise, from upper left.

(Above) The east sitting room wall prior to conservation treatment; after the canvas is reattached the wall; after consolidation; and after final retouching.

(Above) The north-east corner after consolidation (left) and final retouching (right)

Clockwise, from upper left: the north wall before consolidation; after consolidation; and after final retouching.

History

Designed in 1928 by the architect Ernest Mayo for Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Windsor, the house – and its décor – follows in the tradition of English country estates based on classic French chateau design. The Sitting Room murals feature a tropical landscape of palm trees, monkeys and greenery. With French doors opening onto the lawn and the lake beyond, they offer a unique transition from indoor to outdoor environment. As such, they evoke a French colonial residence, a key source of inspiration for the interior design of the house as a whole.

Condition

When examined, the murals had deteriorated dramatically from their original condition, due in large part to severe and extensive water damage. Visible structural problems included a powderized wall support, a cracked and lifting paint surface, and areas of paint loss. The silver-leaf background also evidenced scattered stains and abrasions resulting in an inconsistent appearance. An overall build-up of dirt and grime was further masking the original tones and depths of the painted landscape.

Treatment

At the client’s request, the treatment focused on the structural repairs. All areas of loose and lifting paint were reset into place using a conservation adhesive. The weakened east wall murals were loosened and peeled upward, and the powdered plaster was removed and repaired to offer a smooth, consistent surface. The mural sections were then returned to position and stabilized on the wall surface.

Major losses were filled with gesso and retouched to match the original to both value and hue. The silver-leaf background was also carefully glazed to offer a more uniform tone. A final matte varnish film was then applied to protect the surface and act as a consolidant.

Justin Gilman

The business end of Twin. In charge of landing interesting new projects, making clients happy, and coffee. A maker of beautiful music and master of oral sound effects. A secret Jim Henson nerd. Will always find ways of working smarter. Will never participate in karaoke.

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