Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Petworth's Northern Lights

This week has been an exciting one for the house team, as a project which we've been working on behind the scenes for some time is finally being put into action.

For a long time, we have been looking at ways to improve the lighting in the North Gallery as simply opening the blinds more isn’t an option - the light damage could permanently affect the collection. You'll notice that some of the paintings currently have picture lights hanging above the frames, but these have a minimal effect on the visual impact of the pictures.

Last Thursday we welcomed a group of lighting consultants to the property, who have installed a set of new picture lights onto three of the pictures in the central east bay, on a trial basis. These lights work differently to the ones currently installed as they give a greater spread of light and don’t create the ‘spotlight’ effect you can see on the picture above. Instead a soft ‘glow’ is emitted over the paintings which really highlights the visual details of the works.


These new lights are only with us on a trial basis for now, they need to be approved - and the vital funds raised -  before we can move forward with the project. In a few weeks time, the lighting consultants will be returning to Petworth to make a few improvements to the lighting and install some trial lights on the Macbeth in the Square Dining Room, so watch this space. We're all keeping our fingers crossed!

Using the scaffolding, we removed each painting from the wall to allow the fittings to be added to the paintings.

Fittings were then added to the frame of the paintings.

The bulbs would then be tested for size and strength before they were attached to the frame of the painting.

Testing the strength of different bulbs on the Gainsborough. The light is really picking up the colours in the sky.

The paintings were then taken back up the wall, where the picture lights would be fitted onto the frames and tested in-situ.
This picture shows the contrast between the old picture lights on the painting on the right-hand side, and the new trial picture lights, which were being held over the picture on the left. You can clearly see how the old picture lights focus on the top of the painting, while the trial picture light spreads down the painting (and the final effect would be more impressive, as this light was only being held by hand).

And just because the final effect of the lighting was so impressive, a repeat picture! The lighting really brings out the colours in the chosen paintings, especially in the skies in the landscapes.

If you come and see them today or tomorrow, before we close for the winter, do let us know what you think!

Conservation Assistant


  1. Love the sights on North Gallery. I'll probably visit next weekend. :)

    1. Thanks, the house is now closed for the winter clean, but come and see us in the spring. We've got lots of winter events on over Christmas though, find out more on our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth


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