A mysterious 16th-century painting from Ordsall Hall, Salford is undergoing an extensive restoration.
The Lady in a Court Dress, which is usually hung in the grand Tudor mansion, has been taken down to be restored by the freelance painting conservator Rebecca Kench ACR.
The identity of the elegant subject of the portrait has remained a mystery, some clues from the clothing such as the ruff and bejewelled dress hinting that she was of high class.
This would make all the more sense by the fact that the style of the painting is that of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (c.1561–c.1636), as the oil on panel is commonly attributed to a British school follower of the Flemish painter.
But with no inscription, age or even a name, many have guessed that she may have been one of Elizabeth I’s maids of honour.
The connection would make sense, as Gheeraerts’ most famous work, the Ditchley, depicts Elizabeth I standing on a map of the globe.
Ordsall Hall is a historically significant site with it being one of the first in the North West to have ‘quatreleaf’ design for a visit from Elizabeth I which never transpired.
In 1958 the portrait was bought by Salford Museum in an auction sale of belongings from nearby Abney Hall in Cheadle, Stockport.
The work has been made possible by a generous donation from property developers ForLiving, the North West development company behind the Dock5 project in Ordsall, which houses affordable flats in the area.
The company had organised a series of events at Ordsall Hall for residents throughout the summer.
Strategic lead of ForLiving Mark Edwards said: “Art is for everyone, and it helps tell us who we are and where we come from.
“We’ve put people at the heart of every decision at Dock 5, so we are delighted to support a local museum with the restoration of a stunning painting that has been in the area for such a long time so that it can continue to bring pleasure to local people for many years to come.”
Peter Ogilvie, Curator of Salford Museums, said: “We are delighted that ForLiving have generously agreed to support the repair of our much-loved painting ‘Lady in a Court Dress’.
“She has been much missed by visitors and staff alike and we cannot wait to see her fully restored and back in her rightful place at Ordsall Hall.”
The painting is due to be back on display next year to keep the wonder alive for years to come.
Main image credit: ForLiving, Ordsall Hall