The return of the Lucretia embroidery to Hardwick

While Hardwick is rightly famed for its tapestries, the collection holds some of the finest and most complete embroideries in the country. The most impressive of these are four large appliqué wall hangings depicting the ‘noble women of the ancient world’. Four of these panels survive at Hardwick, each with a strong female character from ancient history, flanked by personifications of their respective virtues.

These pieces of embroidery would originally have been made for Bess while she lived at Chatsworth in the 1570s. Once brought to Hardwick they hung in the Countess’ private withdrawing chamber where the symbolism of the subject matter sent a powerful message to her visitors.

Penelope has been conserved and redisplayed for over a year. Following a painstaking two years of conservation at the National Trust’s textile conservation studio in Norfolk, the embroidered panel of Lucretia is now re-displayed alongside Penelope. 

The high quality materials used in medieval church vestments found a new purpose in the costume and furnishings of the wealthiest in society during the Reformation in England.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the ‘noble women’ set of embroideries is this re-use of much older material.

The embroidery 'Lucretia' before conservation
The embroidery 'Lucretia' before conservation

Each panel costs around £100,000 to conserve, Lucretia depicted with her virtues of Charity and Liberality has been successfully returned to us with thanks to our visitors’ generosity through the scanning of their membership cards, buying a cup of tea or donating to the project directly. The two remaining panels Zenobia and Artemisia patiently await their turn to be conserved, once the Trust has raised enough funds for their conservation.