The conservation and re-hanging of a group of eighteenth and nineteenth century portraits for the newly refurbished Boardroom at St Mary’s highlights the curatorial team’s work in maintaining and taking care of the Collection, which holds a number of historic works. The portraits represent a group of medical practitioners connected to the London Lock and St Mary’s Hospitals, who variously advanced treatments in venereal diseases, uterine diseases, obstetrics and gynaecology. The set includes a bold portrait of the founder of the Lock Hospital "William Bromfield" by Nathaniel Dance, a founder member of the Royal Academy and highly prolific portraitist of the mid eighteenth century, and several portraits by the Reverend Matthew Peters, also a member of the Royal Academy.
Professional conservators were engaged to clean and restore the works. Many of the portraits had been dulled by a long accumulation of surface dirt, which was removed, and all were re-varnished to help bring out their original colours. The portrait of William Bromfield in particular had sustained bad damage; the canvas had been torn slightly, the varnish discoloured and degraded, and the surface was dirty and smeared with glossy spots and splashes. The conservators repaired the tear, consolidated and filled in the damaged paintwork, and re-varnished the surface. All paintings were refitted in their frames (which were also cleaned and the gilding retouched), glazed and back boarded by a frame conservator, which will help protect them from future damage.
Grouped together, the display emphasises how surgeons and doctors valued portraiture as a means of commanding status and celebrating achievements, commissioning portraits from professional and sought after portrait painters of their day, including Royal Academicians. The group reflect changing tastes in portraiture, as the lighter palette of the eighteenth-century paintings transmute into the more sombre tones and flatter surfaces of the Victorian portraits. Whilst the depiction of symbols of work and learning thematically unites the group, the portraits also capture the changing face and nature of the medical profession from the mid eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, from gentleman surgeon to academic specialist.
Details of the portraits on display:
Nathaniel Dance-Holland R.A. (1735-1811), Portrait of William Bromfield (1773-79). Oil on canvas
Revd. Matthew William Peters R.A. (1742-1814)
Portrait of Charles Bromfield, 1779. Oil on canvas
Portrait of Eleanor Barr, 1779. Oil on canvas
Portrait of Thomas Williams, 1777. Oil on canvas
George Elgar Hicks (1824-1914), Portrait of Dr Braxton Hicks, 1893. Oil on canvas
James Doyle Penrose (1862?-1932), Portrait of Dr M. Handfield Jones, 1901. Oil on canvas