Penelope Returns, and Lucretia Leaves

It has been a very exciting (and busy!) couple of weeks at Hardwick as we have been getting ready to open a new exhibition highlighting our ‘Great Hanging’ embroideries. Many, many months ago (three years actually) the first of the Great Hangings went away to Blickling Conservation Studios for conservation work. This is the start of a long-term conservation project for Hardwick. The Blickling Textile Conservation Studio Blog has lots of interesting info and nice pics of the conservation work they did on Penelope.

Penelope

Penelope

Eventually all four beautiful works of this set will be displayed in the Hall in a new exhibition that is being created specifically for this project. They are going to be displayed in the Butler’s Pantry, that used to house an introductory exhibition about Hardwick Estate. The past couple of weeks we have been focusing in installing Penelope in this space and getting it ready to open to the public.

The Empty Exhibition Space

The Empty Exhibition Space

I was not working at Hardwick when Penelope went away for conservation, but remember seeing the hanging on display in their screens in the Entrance Hall. Duchess Evelyn placed the embroideries in these screens, where previously they had been displayed on giant A-Frames, and prior to that hung on walls. Now it has reached the point where these virtuous ladies really need some TLC.

Taking Penelope out of her packaging

Taking Penelope out of her packaging

Penelope returned to Hardwick at the beginning of the month, and we brought her into the newly refurbished Butler’s Pantry to await the arrival of her custom-made display case. The vision for the Butler’s Pantry has been to turn it into a really absorbing gallery space where your attention is focused solely in Penelope and eventually the rest of the Great Hangings.

Un-rolling

Un-rolling

The Great Hangings were created by Bess out of clerical vestments her husbands collected from their involvement in the dissolution of the monasteries. Originally there were five hangings, each featuring a strong woman from history or mythology that Bess admired. The five women originally featured in the five hangings were Penelope, Lucretia, Artemisia, Zenobia and Cleopatra. I love that Bess herself has now joined the ranks of these women, and is a role model to others as these five were to her!

Lining the embroidery up with the frame

Lining the embroidery up with the frame

Penelope was the wife of Odysseus (also knows as Ulysses). It took Odysseus 10 years to return from the Trojan War, all the while Penelope waited for his return, not knowing if he was alive or dead. During this time she was harangued by many suitors wanting her hand in marriage. She told the suitors that she would marry once she had finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. So every day Penelope sat at her loom and carried on her weaving, and every night when she was alone she un-wove the work she has just done so the task would never be completed. Eventually Odysseus did return and rid his home of the suitors that had been taking advantage of his lands and possessions for too long, and he and Penelope were joyfully reunited!

Going up!

Going up!

Penelope is depicted alongside Patients and Perseverance on our hanging, two virtues she definitely displayed and that Bess must have admired. The tapestries hanging in the High Great Chamber also depict Penelope as the follow the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) returning from Troy. I studied the Odyssey at A-Level and think it is a really interesting story full of myth and magic, fantastic creatures and plenty of danger! Worth a read if you enjoy mythology and adventure.

Penelope gets a final spruce

Penelope gets a final spruce

Her display case has been fitted with perspex panes as large as we could get them, so as to interfere with the piece as little as possible. It has also been chosen to reduce and reflections so visitors can see Penelope clearly. It works really well and you barely notice it is there, I just hope we don’t get sticky fingers touching it as removing fingerprints off our display cases seems to be an endless job already (I don’t know how people in museums cope!).

Un covering the perspex

Un-covering the perspex

As well as her custom-made display case Penelope has had state of the are LED lighting fitted overhead, set specially to pick out the wonderful colour that still remains in the piece. Each embroidery is made a church vestments, this mean each piece of the image is made from the most fantastic fabrics, velvet and brocades covered in gold and silver threads and spangles! I have been doing a detailed condition check of the piece and keep getting distracted by the way the detail had been created, there is so much to see!

The detail on the eagle held by Perseverance

The detail on the eagle held by Perseverance

I am so pleased to have been involved with this project, in the small way I have been, and so proud of the team for creating a stunning exhibition fitting for such a work of art, and I am in no doubt that Penelope and Bess would have been very pleased with the result! The exhibition officially opened 18th June so if you can come and have a look for yourselves!

Bess' coat of arms

Bess’ coat of arms

The next Great Hanging to head to Norfolk is Lucretia. Lucretia’s story does not have the happy ending Penelope’s does, but luckily the embroidery will have a happy ending and return to us as beautiful as the first now looks! Having seen Penelope’s transformation I cannot wait to see the four virtuous ladies on display, conserved and looking fab. However that is some way off yet so I will have to follow Penelope’s example and be patient.

Hammer, Nail, Stone, Scaffolding – It’s Art!

So this month is probably the busiest month at Hardwick since, I don’t know, the month Bess moved in! We have so many huge projects and events happening I have never been so shattered at the end of a week … Continue reading

Bonny Bakewell

Recently I went on a little jolly to Bakewell for the day (the joys of now having a car!) and it such a beautiful place to spend the day I think I might be popping over there more often  to make the most of sunny days! It is full of lots of picturesque little cottages and cute gift shops and vintage shops as well as some interesting sights to explore.

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I had a friend visiting and we decided to visit the Old House Museum at Bakewell since it has recently been voted Derbyshire Museum of the Year.

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It was an interesting, if a bit odd, very typical of a local life museum in that it had bits of everything on display; including a rat’s skeleton, 1940’s artefacts, lace, clothing, lanterns, a barber’s pole, and lots of scarily life-like mannequins! Some of my favorite bits were the lace making room and furniture including a really nice chest in one of the other rooms.

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Now when I visit museums or other heritage sites I spend just as much time looking at the way they interpret and present their collection as I do looking at the collection itself, but i find it really interesting and like to try and get inspiration wherever I can. However I am definitely not sold on the idea of having mannequins in every room. I wouldn’t want to wander around in the dark, alone, if there were! (Too much Dr Who when I was a child).

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The building was beautiful, and had been extended in a rather higgly-piggldy manner, with rooms being added on where they were need without much though into the future, often blocking off doors or staircases.

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The Museum is at the top of Bakewell so on our way back to the main street we walked though the church yard, which has some really interesting headstones in it.

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Then, after all that exertion we stopped and had the most delicious strawberry milkshake from a lovely little cafe called ‘Naughty & Nice’ in a square of old cottages that now mostly contain craft shops. I couldn’t resist having a peak in the the cute haberdashers too! I may have to go back just for the milkshakes (I asked but they don’t deliver to Chesterfield).

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Then we caught the scent of a chippie and had to get a tray of chips to eat by the river before heading back home. I’m looking forward to being able to explore more of the local sights now I’m mobile, and find out more about the history of the local area.
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