The new permanent exhibition in the Long Gallery guest curated by David Starkey has seen a team of experts working together to combine the old and the new.
Visitors to Hever Castle can now experience what a Long Gallery would have looked like during the reign of Henry VIII and trace the history of the Tudors.
The exhibition depicts the saga from the Wars of the Roses to the Reformation through its art collection.
The Long Gallery, which was created in 1506 by Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father, has been faithfully restored using innovative lighting, redecoration and the paintings themselves bordered by fabric (depicting whether they were from the York, Lancaster or Tudor families).
Hever Castle worked with Brilliant Lighting on modern lighting for all the original portraits.
The award winning Yorkshire-based company which has been going since 2003 provides lighting design and technology across the UK with projects ranging from stately homes to contemporary new builds. As well as creating inspirational lighting for whole houses they have in-depth expertise on lighting fine art, and have worked with some of the most prestigious private art collections in the UK.
For this major new exhibition each painting was individually assessed, and a bespoke LED picture light made for it. Each incredibly discrete fitting was designed to perfectly evenly light each canvas, with the light output also individually fine-tuned to suit each one.
Among the challenges Brilliant Lighting had to deal with during the project was how to fix the lights onto each painting, dealing with reflection and glare, and ensuring that picture lighting works as a whole whilst also being perfect for each portrait. Two different sizes of fitting were used – a miniature spot for smaller paintings, and Brilliant Lighting’s ‘Artview’ picture light for larger – with tailored optics inside for each canvas.
The quality of the light itself was key, and the very high quality LED sources used give real depth and saturation to the colours, and an overall impression of richness and warmth. The LEDs generate no damaging UV light and limited heat, unlike traditional picture lights.
Brilliant Lighting have also designed lighting for the glass case displaying a 17th century Doge’s hat to ensure visitors are able to see the detail of the intricate design.
Previously the Long Gallery was lit with bright spot lights fixed at the top of the wooden panelling pointing upwards and chandeliers on the ceiling.
The new exhibition sees softer lighter to enhance the paintings and be more authentic to the Tudor period.
The attention to detail even extends to the name plates under the portraits which was the role of former antiques dealer Stephen Burrows, who has known David Starkey for 10 years.
Antique velum was added to pieces of wood and the name of the subject of the portrait and details of the artist written on by a calligrapher. The wood needed to be uniform: “continuity is what you want,” explains Stephen.
Stephen also took great pains to make sure everything looks authentic even down to the nails pinning the wood to the wall which are put in water to look rusty.
As well as the wooden panels Stephen has also restored the case which is displaying the Doge’s hat.