Senior Conservator (Furniture and Frames), Knole
Knole has more than 200 magnificent early picture frames and Gerry Alabone is looking forward to getting his hands on some of the most significant while work is underway in the historic showrooms. He joins Knole from the Tate Gallery where he was head of picture frames conservation between 2004 and 2016. He also lectures part-time at the City and Guilds London Art School.
Gerry discovered his passion for conservation after studying Fine Art at Bath Academy of Art, and conservation and restoration at London Guildhall University.
He joined the Guildhall Art Gallery as a technician and later as a conservator. There he helped to take care of the 4,000-strong art collection of the City of London dating back to 1670, including one of the world’s most extensive collections of Victorian paintings. He moved to the Tate in 2004 as head of frames conservation before joining the National Trust last year.
Gerry was attracted to Knole for its rich and precious variety of frames, ranging from the early seventeenth century joiner frames in the Brown Gallery and eighteenth century carved and gilded Neo-classical styles in the Reynolds Room to heavily enriched nineteenth century revival-style frames.
His favourites include the painting of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, in the Cartoon Gallery, which has a unique gilded and painted frame, and the portrait of George IV as Prince Regent in the Great Hall with its heavily enriched Lawrence-style frame.
The relationship between painting, frame and setting is often complicated. Evidence shows many of the frames at Knole have been resized and reused, suggesting they are unlikely to be original to their present painting or room. Gerry’s job is to assess the significance of a frame and make recommendations for its treatment.
One of Gerry’s first tasks at Knole was to work out a treatment for a unique set of six large black and gold ‘Sansovino’ style frames from the Cartoon Gallery dating from the 1630s. The frames were made for copies of Raphael’s tapestry cartoons and have been at Knole since 1702.
These frames were in weak structural condition when removed from the walls – with damage to original joinery, woodworm, flaking decorative surfaces and over painting. It was Gerry’s job to improve the appearance of the frames and ensure their safe display back in the gallery in time for the showrooms to reopen.