Restoration of Painted Wall Covering in the Mirror Room


brief history
The Mirror Room has had various functions throughout history. Before the sixteenth century, it was part of the sacristy and later it was the place where the Commissioners of Marital Affairs held office. In that period, Rembrandt van Rijn and Saskia van Uylenburgh, among others, applied for a marriage licence there. Like the church space, the room is a mixture of elements from different eras that were consecutive rather than simultaneous. The wall coverings were made around 1760-1770, as were the woodcarvings with a shell motif and the large mirror with a gilded frame. We do not know what the room looked like before that time. Similar wall coverings with large colourful flower and bird motifs on a light blue background were common in eighteenth-century houses. Only a few examples have survived. A striking feature of the wall coverings in the Mirror Room is the use of silver and gold leaf. In a number of flowers either the heart or the entire flower has first been decorated with metal leaf (gold or silver), after which the details of the flowers were painted over this using transparent varnishes. In addition to the use of metal leaf, it is also striking that the flowers on the coverings are not attached to ascending tendrils, but that the tendrils are scattered across the surface. The flowers themselves are painted in a largely realistic and naturalistic manner. They are easy to identify and include Kaiser’s crowns, primroses, tulips, roses and Indian cress. Botanically, the leaves of the tendrils to which the flowers are attached do not correspond to the leaves that go with these flowers. The leaves’ shape is a combination of different leaf shapes inspired by, among other plants, acanthus, ivy and lathyrus.

restoration
Prior to the restoration proper, restoration architect Ben Massop and Ruth Jongsma of the Bureau voor Kleuronderzoek & Restauratie carried out extensive research into the background and condition of the painted wall coverings. During the inventory, the researchers were able to use the knowledge and experience they gained from previous restorations of similar wall coverings, including a flowery wall covering in De Trompenburgh in ’s-Graveland. The restoration process started by making the linen dust-free and taking the coverings down from the walls. The ancient frames to which they were attached were replaced by new ones.
Other necessary conservation work will be carried out in the near future: the repair of loose pieces of linen and cracks around the doors. The letters that have been scratched into the linen on the door of the fireplace wall will be filled and repainted. The entire surface will be cleaned of loose dust. Structural conservation work will also be carried out. All of the coverings on the walls and doors will be restretched. To this end, the frames at the tops and bottoms of the wall coverings will be removed. After treatment, the linen coverings will hang directly in front of the sheet material of the walls once again. Next, some aesthetic improvements will be made: in addition to the loose dust the caked-on dust on the surface will be removed. Old overpaintings will also be dealt with.
The Mirror Room is big enough for the restorers to work on the pieces according to plan. This means the objects can remain in their original surroundings. The restoration will take place in public and can be viewed by visitors.

This restoration has been made possible by the generous support of the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency, Zabawas, Gravin van Bylandt Foundation, BankGiroLoterij and Diorapthe.