Coronation of Marcus Aurelius Tapestry Conservation
Earlier this year, one of Packwood’s most fragile tapestries was sent away for specialist conservation thanks to a generous legacy donation secured by Packwood a few years ago.
The Coronation of Marcus Aurelius Tapestry was woven c.1600-1679 in Antwerp, Belgium by Michiel Wauters. It was one of the many items Baron Ash purchased for Packwood from neighbouring Baddesley Clinton in 1932. It usually hangs in the Long Gallery, a perfect space to display tapestries.
In early March, the Collections and House team took the tapestry down from the wall and packaged it ready to go off for its conservation work. The process of planning, practising and safely removing the tapestry from the wall took around four hours and involved five people.
Firstly, a length of ‘loop’ Velcro was pinned to one vertical edge of the tapestry. Another strip of ‘hook’ Velcro was attached to a long tube which was then attached to the Velcro on the tapestry. The tapestry was then rolled off the wall vertically onto the tube, with the Velcro preventing the heavy textile from slipping. The roll was placed onto a trolley, allowing the roll to move more easily along the room without scratching the wooden floor. Bubble wrap was placed at the top of the roll to prevent scratching the low ceiling. The tapestry is hung via a strip of horizontal Velcro at the top. This has to be slowly ripped off bit by bit as the tapestry was carefully rolled around the tube.
The team had to be especially careful to avoid exacerbating any of the existing slits or holes in the tapestry, and to keep the top of the tapestry perfectly straight so the tapestry would not drag on the floor or bunch up in the middle. Once rolled, the tapestry was tied with fabric strips and moved into a larger space where it was unrolled and then re-rolled more neatly onto another tube and covered in protective tissue paper and bubble wrap.
The tapestry will be firstly sent to Belgium to be wet cleaned, removing all surface dust and ingrained dirt. It will then return to England to the National Trust’s Conservation Studio at Blickling Hall in Norfolk. At the studio, textile conservators will remove any visually disturbing past repairs, resew horizontal slits, re-warp holes, and replacing the lining of the tapestry. Any replacement thread used will be colour matched so the repairs blend in. The conservation treatment will take approximately two years (over 1500 hours) and will stabilise the tapestry, prolonging its life for at least the next 100 years.