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Restorers set to work on portrait

21 June 2013

by a staff reporter


Before the attack: the artist Ralph Heimans last month, with his portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

Before the attack: the artist Ralph Heimans last month, with his portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey

A NEW portrait of the Queen, which was defaced with spray-paint by a protester, is undergoing repairs by Westminster Abbey's conservation team.

A campaigner for Fathers4Justice, Tim Haries, aged 41, from Doncaster, has been charged with more than £5000 of criminal damage, after the portrait was sprayed with turquoise paint, while it was on display in the Abbey Chapter House. He was released on conditional bail until his next hearing on 28 June.

The portrait, by the Australian artist Ralph Heimans, was acquired earlier this year by the Abbey for its celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Coronation. It depicts the Queen standing on the Cosmati pavement - a spot where every English monarch has been crowned since it was commissioned by Henry III in the 13th century.

The painting had been scheduled to be on display until September, but was removed after the incident. It is now with the Abbey's team of conservators.

A spokeswoman said: "The Abbey's conservators assessed the painting immediately after the incident, and began work immediately. Detailed work by the Abbey conservators continues. The artist, Ralph Heimans, has been consulted throughout. . . We are confident it will go back on display."

Chris Bull, a restoration consultant with the Fine Art Restoration Company, whose clients include the National Trust, said that complete restoration of the painting could be achieved, but it could take about eight weeks to finish.

He said: "Spray-paint is potentially harder to remove, as it has a fine finish and is a more chemical mix of paint. But it can be removed by using different kinds of solvents, applied with cotton buds, which loosen the paint, and it has to be neutralised each time to ensure it doesn't eat into the paintwork around it. It has to be done very slowly, in layers. . .

"But, however good the removal is, the painting will have to be retouched, and I imagine the artist would want to get involved in doing that. Then the whole painting would need to be revarnished."

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