The frame for J.M.W. Turner's Battle of Trafalgar, one of the largest oil paintings in the Museum's collection, recently spent a few weeks in the Frame Conservation studio. As one of the iconic images relating to Nelson, the painting is a must-see for many visitors to the Museum and would normally be hanging somewhere in the galleries. The NMM frame conservators took advantage of a rare opportunity to do some extensive work replacing missing ornament while the painting and its frame were between venues on a travelling program which has already included 3 venues in the USA.
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At over 3 metres by 4 metres it may seem surprising that we were able to get this huge frame into the studio, but luckily it was designed to break down into the four pieces and is held together with original nineteenth century large bolts and brackets.
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We think that when the painting was moved to the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital a big tablet label was put onto the bottom section of the frame which necessitated the removal of the moulded decoration in that location.
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We decided to replace these losses using moulds taken from the running pattern on a corresponding section of frame. All in all we used some 3.5 Kg of dentist's silicon impression putty. The end result is that the frame is much improved, ready to resume its travels, and is now happily packed away in the custom made case commissioned for this touring exhibition. Next stop Tate Britain, and then on to Paris!