Stunning Tudor painting back on display at Ordsall Hall in Salford after four years away for restoration work

The 16th century portrait Lady in a Court Dress is now back on display for visitors to Salford’s Tudor house and museum to see.
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A beautiful 16th century portrait is back on display at a Tudor house in Greater Manchester after four years away for restoration work.

The masterpiece Lady in a Court Dress, showing an elegant lady in waiting in a black dress, has been hung once more at Ordsall Hall in Salford for visitors to the historic site to enjoy.

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The painting had been a firm favourite for decades with visitors to the Tudor house but previously not a great deal had been known about it. As well as paying for the conservation work, the funding which went to the restoration has also enabled experts to discover more about the beautiful image.

Ordsall Hall is a notable example of Tudor architecture and takes visitors on a trip through history to explore what life was like hundreds of years ago.

What happened when the painting Lady in a Court Dress was sent away for restoration work?

The painting Lady in a Court Dress has now been rehung in the Great Chamber of Ordsall Hall after four years when visitors to the house and museum could not view it.

Although it had been on display in Salford for over 40 years and was a firm favourite with people who visited Ordsall Hall, not a great deal was known about it. However, some research has now been done at the same time as the conservation work thanks to a donation by developer ForLiving, which is behind Dock5 at a riverside location a short distance from Ordsall Hall.

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As well as a painstaking 12-step restoration process, curators have taken the opportunity to find out a bit more about the painting which is over 400 years old.

Study of the design of the lady-in-waiting’s dress has revealed that the portrait very likely dates from the decade 1590 to 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and William Shakespeare was writing some of his most popular comedies for the London theatre stage.

Lady in a Court Dress at Ordsall HallLady in a Court Dress at Ordsall Hall
Lady in a Court Dress at Ordsall Hall

The painting has a similar design to other portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, a Flemish painter who worked at the Tudor court and had become a popular artist by the end of Elizabeth I’s reign.

This date of between 1590 and 1600 also makes the oil portrait one of the first to feature someone wearing the unusual black silk cord and ‘ring’ on her left wrist. This piece of jewellery appears in other portraits by Gheeraerts and his contemporaries from around 10 years later, including ones of Anne of Denmark and Elizabeth Southwell, a maid of honour to Elizabeth I.

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X-rays have also revealed that at one time the lady was wearing a necklace of pearls in the portrait. Putting all this information together, the curators are confident the painting at Ordsall Hall is of someone who was important in the Elizabethan court and whose portrait was captured by a British School artist inspired by the style of Gheeraerts the Younger.

The conservation work was carried out by freelance painting conservator Rebecca Kench ACR. She said one of the challenges involved in working on the portrait, which was painted with oils on board, was retouching the join to match the 1950s varnish.

What has been said about the restoration of Lady in a Court Dress?

Peter Ogilvie, collections manager at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, said: The painting has been away from the hall for over four years and has been greatly missed by the public and staff alike. The Court Lady has always been regarded as part of the fabric of the Hall, so it is fabulous to have her back and looking so good as well.

“Without this opportunity, we would not have been in the position to learn more about the content and development of the painting. For instance, we now know from X-rays that she once had a necklace of pearls which accounts for the unusual position of her right hand.

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”Thanks to the generosity of ForLiving and their investment in the community of Ordsall, we have managed to get our painting repaired.”

Restoration work being done on the paintingRestoration work being done on the painting
Restoration work being done on the painting

Mark Edwards, strategic lead at ForLiving, added: “We really hope news of the restored portrait will capture the imagination of local people.

“People are at the centre of everything we do at ForLiving, so it’s great to know how much this means to the Salford community. I can also say how much the residents at Dock 5 have enjoyed getting to know Ordsall Hall through the events we have held there.”

The portrait is on view now at Ordsall Hall, which is open from Sunday to Thursday and free to visit.