Conservation in full view of visitors...

Gail Egan and Henry Matthews work on the painting. Picture: FPA
Gail Egan and Henry Matthews work on the painting. Picture: FPA

Work to conserve an important 16th century Italian painting at Falkland Palace is proceeding apace.

The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria with St Apollonia, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist is by acclaimed renaissance painter Francesco Brini.

The artwork has now acclimatised to its new surroundings and has been unwrapped and cleaning is progressing quickly.

Over the last few weeks, specialist conservators have been carefully removing layers of discoloured varnish and dirt to reveal the true colours of the painting.

This painstaking process is revealing a great deal about the painting.

Wendy Purvis, manager at the National Trust for Scotland property, said: “I’ve been spell bound by the process which has revealed the original paint. How fascinating it is to watch conservators at work and learn about the process as it happens live.

“This is the sort of thing that would normally happen behind closed doors but to see it every day is a real privilege.”

The cleaning is revealing the true colours and extra detail in the painting - what was thought to be pale green is a beautiful powder blue; dirty orange is revealed as bright gold.

Extra detail lost under the centuries of varnish is being rediscovered, such as the tiny face on the front of St Apollonia’s dress and the delicate veil on her hair.

A technical analysis of the paint layers by Glasgow University Department of Technical Art History has identified pigments commonly used in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Understanding the composition of the painting structure will greatly help the conservators in deciding the most appropriate treatment to be carried out.

Painstaking work on palace painting

Due to the size and weight of the piece it is being treated in a special workshop which has been built in the chapel.

Expert painting conservators Gail Egan and Henry Matthews from Dundee-based firm Egan, Matthews and Rose have been working while visitors are on site.

Julie Bon, Trust conservator, said: “There’s been a lot of hard work put into the preparation and it’s great to see the painting and the conservation work in action in full view of the visitors.”