Church Focus: The Turner ‘Glory’

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The Turner ‘Glory’ reinstated – image copyright S. Paul’s Deptford

Henry Turner, who was appointed as painter by the commissioners on 18 September 1716, was employed firstly to paint and guild ‘the vase and fane upon the stone spire of the new Church Erecting in the parish of Deptford’. In 1724 he was instructed to ‘paint and guild about the altar’ and to include ‘a large curtain, cherub heads and a Glory in the spherical arch’. Turner’s original 1724 ‘glory’ in the apse of the church was only discovered in 1975 by Peter Foster, and fully reinstated in 2002 by Richard Ireland, due to damage caused by the fire of 29 May 2000.

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A watercolour picture shows the replaced ‘glory’ with another composition including fictive drapery, which is attributed to the painter Benjamin West (1723–1820). It was also at this point that most of the architecture was painted in ‘imitation of white marble, with grey veins, again with trompe l’oeil enrichments and fictive fluting on the columns and pilasters’, as seen in the Scharf watercolour.

The team involved in the HLF interior restoration of S. Paul’s (2000 – 2003) carried out investigative work in order to decide how to restore this painting. The Doric order of the altarpiece was identified as painted in a pale grey imitating English alabaster, along with moulding enriched with trompe l’oeil and also the heavy retouching of the 1970s paint on the original Turner ‘glory’. However it was eventually decided that since most of Turner’s paintwork had been so badly damaged, the team would ‘re-create the whole of his scheme anew, making allowance for discolouration’, led by Wim & Joy Huning. The paint was prepared and based on the paints found under the microscope, thus preserving the original scheme.

 

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