Queen’s Staircase

Painted ceiling (William Kent, 1734), Queen’s Staircase, Hampton Court Palace

Despite the scathing criticism of the decoration of the Queen’s Staircase by Victorian art historian Ernest Law, the staircase provides a spectacular yet dignified entrance to the Queen’s apartments.

Since the early 1950s there are records of constant restoration to the “ill-fated” ceiling. In 2001 concern was raised about new losses to the decoration which was followed by overall stabilisation of the paint using an acrylic dispersion. Within a year further instability and recurrent lifting and flaking of the paint was observed. There followed a cross-disciplinary investigation into the broader aspects of the condition including material analysis and environmental monitoring. This investigation significantly discovered that there was a failure of cohesion in an underlying layer resulting in delamination and that there were dramatic variations within the environment caused by a ventilated heater drawing upon external air.

Trials have been undertaken using a number of low molecular weight resins to impregnate the layer responsible for delamination and measures are being implemented to ameliorate the environment. The situation is continuing to be monitored.

In pictures

Click on any image for a larger version.

The painted ceiling Flaking and lost paint Resin test board