Through the generosity of a second grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, paper conservator Amy Junker Heslip has been able to continue her investigations into the Adelaide wallpaper at the Royal Pavilion and the Chinese Wallpaper held there.
During her survey of the Chinese wallpaper collection (more about this to follow in a separate post), she came across an intriguing roll of paper, wrapped carefully in archival paper in the wallpaper store.
As you can see, when opened up it was labelled: ‘Adelaide Corridor Chinese Paper. Damaged and overlined with brown paper. Removed from Saloon Bottle 3.5.95. HW’
As described in the label, the wallpaper was carefully unrolled to reveal that it was covered (‘faced’) with a heavy brown paper. It appears that this had been glued to the front of the wallpaper to protect it when rolled and stored.
Due to the very heavy facing there was no way of knowing what was to be found under the paper, if anything at all. There was a chance that this would be too water damaged or too many pigment losses to be worth spending the treatment time to conserve this.
Amy proposed removing a small area of the facing paper as a test to see what was beneath. The first areas to be removed showed a heavy yellow varnish on top of the Chinese paper below. This was an exciting discovery as we know that a varnish was applied to all of the Adelaide corridor at some point in the 19th Century and was not removed until the 1960s on the paper in situ in the corridor. This tells us that this paper was certainly part of the Adelaide corridor installation and removed prior to 1960s.
Amy widened her test area into a small rectangle to and as she did so a small face appeared. It was an exciting discovery and a joy to bring these figures back to life after over 60 years of being kept in the dark.
A full conservation treatment will now be planned for this roll and Amy will be sure to update us as the reveal continues.
Amy Junker Heslip, Paper Conservator
With support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art