Inspired by Knole

Emma Schmuecker, Conservation Studio Manager Emma Schmuecker Conservation Studio Manager
An 18th century gold-gilded sconce from the Ballroom at Knole, Kent

The keystone of the Inspired by Knole project, the conservation studio opened in March 2017. In its first two years of operation, the studio conserved more than 80 percent of Knole’s unique Royal Stuart furniture, picture frames, paintings and objects acquired by the Sackville family since the 17th century. The team of conservators also mentored young conservators on short-term contracts, as well as conservation degree students from City and Guilds of London Art School and University College London.

The elaborate, finely carved English frame for the portrait of Sir Thomas Sackville, Baron Buckhurst and 1st Earl of Dorset was conserved in the Knole Studio using an Erbium YAG laser which lifted bronze overpainting without damaging the gilding underneath. Such leading-edge treatment revealed its rare early 17th century blue ground. This important portrait of the first Sackville to live at Knole now hangs in the Great Hall (photos during and after treatment)

After (left) and before (right) conservation of frame housing a portrait of Sir Thomas Sackville
After and before conservation images Sir Thomas Sackville portrait frame
After (left) and before (right) conservation of frame housing a portrait of Sir Thomas Sackville

The ‘Knole Sofa’ is arguably one of the most famous single pieces of furniture in the collection, dating from the early 17th century. The project enabled conservators to expose a palimpsest of its 350 years of construction and repair. They investigated its many layers of silk velvet, silk trimmings and punch-decorated brass nails which retain some of their original gold-fired gilding. By carefully conserving and repairing its iconic cast-iron ratchet system, this precursor of the modern sofa is also protected behind glass while on display in the Leicester Gallery. 

A conservator works on the iconic Knole sofa
A conservator working on the iconic Knole sofa
A conservator works on the iconic Knole sofa

The Knole Kussenkast was found in 61 fragments of differing sizes during work in the attics. Over ten months these pieces were conserved, reassembled and the whole “cushion-cabinet” returned to its historic display in the Spangle Bedroom. Its Baltic oak framework was tree-ring dated to 1652, and its richly carved auricular style ebony- and rosewood-veneered panels was found to be very rare in Britain. The Kussenkast represents a powerful statement of the Sackvilles’ wealth and social status and is also an exemplary piece of Dutch Golden Age decorative furniture, now protected for future generations to enjoy. 

The magnificent Knole Kussenkast restored and reassembled in the Spangle Bedroom, Knole, Kent
The Knole Kussenkast in the Spangle Bedroom at Knole, Kent
The magnificent Knole Kussenkast restored and reassembled in the Spangle Bedroom, Knole, Kent