Georgian Illuminations includes two rare linen transparencies which were placed in building windows and lit from behind on illumination nights, to spectacular effect. 

These transparencies, produced in around 1814, had spent many years folded up in a box, and their condition was testament to this, and over two hundred years of survival against the odds. Certain areas of the transparencies had lost definition, including the faces of both Peace and Wellington.

The two original transparencies of Wellington on horseback and Peace burning implements of war, prior to their restoration

Above: the transparencies of Wellington and Peace illuminated prior to their restoration.

The transparencies were conserved and made ready for display over 2022 and 2023. This involved humidifying the transparencies to help flatten them and make the crease lines where they had been folded less obvious, surface cleaning them, and stabilizing the vulnerable edges which featured holes where the transparencies had been tacked up inside window frames. Finally, skilled conservators retouched areas of the figures’ faces and some of the text to make them more legible, using pigments which can easily be removed in future if desired.

Browse through the gallery below to take a closer look at the work involved in this remarkable restoration.

All restoration images courtesy of Zenzie Tinker Conservation.

Peace, before and after

On the left, a close-up of the face of Peace before restoration. On the right, the same view after restoration, showing the improved state of the transparency and the detail of the painting.

Finally, with the restoration complete, the transparencies were mounted over acrylic and framed in specially commissioned light boxes to recreate the spectacle of seeing them lit from behind on illumination nights. This is how they'll be displayed to Museum visitors throughout the course of Georgian Illuminations.

The two transparencies, Wellington to the left and Peace to the right, on lightboxes in the Foyle Space.

Above: both transparencies, fully restored and on display using bespoke lightboxes, in the Foyle Space. Photo by Gareth Gardner.

Listen to Georgian Illuminations co-curator Louise Stewart introduce these remarkable items and explain their role in the many spectacular celebrations of the era.