Fanshawe portraits assessed in preservation effort for future generations

Sarah Cove inspecting the back of one the Fanshawe paintings

Sarah Cove (left) inspects the back of one of the Fanshawe paintings. - Credit: LBBD

Some of Barking and Dagenham’s most prized portraits have gone under the microscope in an effort to preserve the paintings for future generations. 

Every inch of all 74 pieces of art in the Fanshawe family collection were meticulously evaluated using the latest conservation techniques, such as ultraviolet light, to identify any damage or flaking paint.

Painting inspected under torch light

The painted surfaces were inspected under torch light to make it easier to see lifting cracks or flaking paint - signs of deterioration. - Credit: LBBD

The painstaking work, which seeks to understand how the paintings were made and how they can be preserved, was carried out by Sarah Cove of the Constable Research Project.

Sarah identified that most of the paintings - some of which date back to the 16th century - had undergone some form of restoration treatment in the past.

 Some of the larger portraits were examined in the store.

Some of the larger portraits were examined in the store due to their size. - Credit: LBBD

She said: “I was delighted to be invited to examine this unique portrait collection. 

“Considering the age of some of the works, the portraits are in remarkably good condition – a testament to the care and attention they have received throughout their existence.  

“It is an honour to now be part of their continued survival, ensuring they keep on telling the important story of Barking and Dagenham’s history.” 

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The last condition survey of the Fanshawe collection was undertaken in 2005.

This latest review will be used to identify the paintings most in need of conservation.

Sarah Cove carefully examined the frames of a Fanshawe painting

Sarah Cove carefully examined the frames of the paintings, many of which are original and help document the changing fashion for frame styles in the 17th century. - Credit: LBBD

The most recently conserved portrait was that of Sarah, Viscountess Castleton by John Riley, which was completed in 2019 with support from Art Fund.

The Fanshawes were a prominent local family who were lords of the manor of Barking from 1628 to 1857.

They owned and lived in a number of manor houses in the borough, including Valence House, Jenkins, Parsloes and Faulks, and gifted the Leet House to the residents of Barking.

UV light on a Fanshawe painting

UV light shows up any old damage or retouching of paint on the surface. - Credit: LBBD

Deputy council leader Cllr Saima Ashraf, cabinet member for community leadership and engagement, said: “These portraits are part of our borough’s rich history and heritage and we’re pleased to be able to contribute to their preservation for future generations to enjoy.

“These portraits are just one of the fascinating collections on show at our museum."

 Visit the Valence House Museum website at valencehousecollections.co.uk/ for more information.