Sarah Cove, renowned conservator and international consultant to museums and collectors around the globe, recently treated the Friends of Te Papa and The New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials to a forensic and technical exploration of painting through the splendour of Tudor and Jacobean portraiture.

These magnificent paintings, often more than two meters tall and grandly framed, are a visual history lesson for the times in which they were created. In glorious photos and through in-depth examinations Sarah revealed the three dimensional tapestry of paint and resins used to imitate exquisite embellishments on costumes and paraphernalia from the 15th and 16th centuries.

While attributed to the esteemed international artists of the times, they were a collaboration of studio artists skilled in particular attributes of a painting. The master’s hand was evident in the execution of the face, while someone skilled in portraying the rich draping of a curtain, or the richly embroidered gowns and elaborately fashioned pearl accoutrements of power and status completed the work.

That we might still see these grand paintings in castles and galleries today is testament to the skill and passion of cultural conservators worldwide.

Sheryn Shackleton, Committee, Friends of Te Papa