The Marble Hall at Clandon Park

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A devastating fire broke out at Clandon Park in Surrey on Wednesday 29 April. Everyone was evacuated from the building and there were no reports of injuries but the fire ravaged the building, damaging all but one room.

Three centuries of cultural history and important Palladian interiors were lost in the blaze. A proportion of the contents were saved through a well-rehearsed salvage operation.

The perfect party room

Clandon Park's Marble Hall was one of the most dramatic entrance halls in England, and was considered a masterpiece by Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni. Designed to impress and entertain, it was the ideal awe-inspiring introduction for important guests of the 2nd Lord Onslow and his wife, the heiress Elizabeth Knight.

This two-storey, 40-foot cube served two purposes: to receive guests and to entertain. It was used with the saloon next door to cater for large parties, opening up the entire width of the building.

Inspiration from above

The stunning stucco ceiling is attributed to Giuseppe Artari. It was constructed by pushing wet lime plaster onto a large oak frame. Larger features, such as figures, were then attached with handmade iron nails.

The central relief depicts Hercules and Omphale. This tale appears in Greek and Roman mythology and has provided great inspiration for Venetian artists. The four cardinal virtues are depicted in the corners as female figures.

Framing the fireplaces

The overmantel reliefs were carved by John Michael Rysbrack who trained in Antwerp and came to England around 1720. An extremely sought-after artist, he was responsible for sculpting many great figures, including the monument to Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.

The reliefs depict scenes of hunting and sacrifice. The south relief is dedicated to Diana and the chase, the north relief to Bacchus. They are designed to emphasise the theme of hospitality.

Conserving the ceiling

In 2011 we undertook a project to check the stability and condition of the ceiling. The previous works were carried out in 1968, so this provided a great opportunity for us to complete repairs and clean the surface.

The ceiling was found to be in extraordinarily good repair considering its construction date. Once its condition had been recorded, each area was cleaned with soft brushes and low-suction vacuum cleaners and any cracks found were filled.