The Saloon Restoration

If you’ve visited the Royal Pavilion recently, you may have noticed significant progress in the restoration of the Saloon.

The six large Chinese wallpaper panels have now been removed, ready for conservation and re-hanging in their original location in Queen Victoria’s Bedroom. They will be replaced by one of the most beautiful features of the Saloon as it looked when it was completed in 1823 – dazzling crimson silk panels.

The conservation team has been working tirelessly to try and find the most historically accurate silks for this. Initial research from old photographs and drawings led us to believe the silks were a crimson and gold damask but, just as the order was about to be placed, new evidence came to light. Silk weaver Richard Humphries was looking through a book of silks at the V&A when he saw a photograph of a silk that appeared to match those in the Saloon. Further investigation led him to a unique and fragile book of English and French silk samples from 1764, held in the V&A’s archives. The book had been confiscated by British customs due to an embargo on French goods coming into the country after the Seven Years War (1756-1763). The book contains hundreds of original samples of silks that French agents were attempting to sell illegally in London.

Right at the back of the book was a sample of the Saloon silk conservators had dreamed of uncovering – a beautiful, richly coloured silk with a stunning gold pattern, delightfully preserved due to its lack of exposure to light. The material is a more expensive and complex interwoven ‘tissue’ fabric than the ‘damask’ originally thought, with far brighter and more powerful colours. With this new information, our conservators can press on with creating the new silk panels, confident that the result would not disappoint George IV himself.

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