Arundel Castle install

Replacing the Gobelin Tapestry

In November 2019, we replaced Arundel Castle's Gobelin tapestry with portraits of the 10th Duke and Duchess of Norfolk

Preparation Process

In November, we were asked to install two portraits above Arundel Castle’s grand staircase that were replacing a tapestry which needed to be removed for treatment and conservation. We initially met with Arundel Castle Conservation Manager, Peter Nottingham, to discuss further details about the project. Arundel decided on the installation of two Opie portraits of the 10th Duke and Duchess of Norfolk to hang in the tapestries place.

Our Technical Training Manager, Ben Sparkes, made a second visit to the Castle once the scaffolding had been built and the tapestry removed. This was to ensure that our team of art technicians would have enough access between the scaffolding standards (uprights) to physically carry the portraits up the staircase on the day. Ben planned to use a pair of rope block and tackle to raise the paintings into position but had to guarantee that there would be no obstruction from the scaffolding and that there would be a pair of lifting points for each painting. The scaffolding contractor re-arranged sections of the structure to enable the team to attach the necessary lifting equipment to it in advance of the installation day.

Installation Day

On the day of installation, we arrived on-site with six art technicians and Ben leading the team.

“We travelled on two smaller vehicles so we could park close to the location of work. After all, castles are notoriously difficult to access, for obvious reasons. And we were very glad of the modern addition of a passenger lift!” – Ben Sparkes

The team first began the process by de-installing the two portraits to be temporarily stored, face in, against the walls of the room they were originally hung. They then attached an additional pair of plate hooks to the back of each frame so that they could use them to lift the artworks into place on the grand staircase.

Before the installation could happen, the team needed to measure up the wall on the staircase and leave tape markers where the artwork could be displayed. These decisions are often informed by architectural features in the building and the proportions of the artwork. Once the final placement of the paintings had been discussed with the Arundel staff and we received the go-ahead, the team could then calculate where all the hardware needed to be fixed to the wall.

The team used wall brackets to support the base of each portrait and used the picture chains to secure the frames to the wall at the top. This technique is often used in country and stately homes throughout the UK and we often use this method where heavy glazed items require this level of support. By using this method, the weight of the frame is supported by a ‘shelf’ and not just hanging from two points near the top of the frame.

Once the artwork was in position over the wall brackets, the chains were then fixed to the wall and hooked onto the plate hooks at the back of the work. The paintings were then lowered gently onto the brackets. The position of the artwork and the security of the chains were checked, and only at that point did the team allow the block and tackle to go slack and let the full weight of the object settle in its place. This method ensures that the artworks are never ‘free’ and just being held by hand in space. Their weight and position are controlled at all times throughout the hanging process.

A project like this involves a great deal of preparation including the delivery of equipment and materials to the location beforehand and the understanding of how to safely handle fragile and heavy objects.

Arundel Castle is now back open for you to see the grand staircase in person. If you would like to find out more information about our installation services, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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