Restoration Intern Two Gibbons

14 July 2015

In the big sale of 1922, when the Dukes were bust and desperate, the State Music Room lost the key to its neoclassical magic when the ceiling centrepiece was auctioned off.

This centrepiece was a painting called the Dance of Hours by Vincenzo Valdré, after Guido Reni’s Aurora which can be found in Rome, it depicts the hours of the day, dancing in the merciless, ceaseless circle of time.

The school was unable to afford to buy the unique painting back for £9,000, and so the Gibbons brothers took it upon themselves to restore it. They ingeniously decided to make a copy of the painting onto chipboard, on a total of eight fragments and, whilst the original was admired in an unknown home, Stowe sufficed with this ‘60s hotchpotch.

But in 2012 Stowe House Preservation Trust were offered the Valdré for a much heftier £75,000. It was worth it - if only to amuse oneself by noticing that during its time away, the female figures had morphed into Joanna Lumley look-a-likes, or other twentieth- century celebrities. Faces were refigured to reflect the Georgian conception of beauty and the painting reinstated.

The State Music Room today is as glamorous as ever: lavishly decorated with panels of amusing and elegant grotesques and arabesques on the walls, marble columns, chandeliers and beautiful gilded detail.