The National Gallery's Room 32

Room 32 of the National Gallery, or the north room of the ‘Barry block,’ was part of a once sumptuously decorated suite of rooms opened at the National Gallery in 1876.

An oil painting of the room from that time by Giuseppe Gabrielli depicts how the gallery’s walls were deep red, and the plasterwork richly gilded and elaborately stencilled. Today, it displays large-scale Italian Baroque paintings within a plainer space – all of the original decorative work has been painted over in white.

In May 2017, DBR Conservation took approximately 180 paint samples from the architectural elements to find evidence of earlier decorative schemes. The samples were examined under low magnification and the fragments were mounted in polyester resin to be viewed as cross sections at high magnification. Material from the key layers was dispersed on glass slides, and the pigments were identified using a polarising light microscope. Lead tests were carried out on representative sections.

DBR Conservation is currently working with the National Gallery to interpret the results of this paint investigation to create a variety of redecoration proposals.

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