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Four ceiling paintings by Andrea Casali (1720-1783), originally at Beckford's 'Fonthill Splendens', purchased by Hastings Elwin for the Institution in 1823.
The four oval ceiling paintings of mythological figures in a monumental style, now on the ceiling of the Elwin Room at BRLSI, were originally commissioned by Alderman Beckford in the 1750s during the rebuilding of his Palladian mansion, Fonthill Splendens, following a fire in 1755. These were painted by Andrea Casali, an 18th century painter of mythological, historical and religious subjects in Italy and England. The four Casali paintings are:
Left: Pan, The Arcadian god of nature and music.
Right: Pomona, the goddess of fruit
Left: Ceres, the Italian goddess of corn
Right: Mercury, the god of trade and commerce.
The paintings were purchased by Hastings Elwin for the BRLSI in 1823. In the 1930s the Institution was forced to move premises when its building in Terrace Walk was compulsorily purchased to make way for a traffic scheme, and in 1939 its replacement (and present) home was requisitioned by the Admiralty. Unsurprisingly, the Casali paintings deteriorated over this period, and a restoration project began in 1997.
A condition report, given by a conservator of the then AMCSW, conservation department based in Bristol, recommended: 'Cleaning and restoration, to repair the damaging effects of flaking and paint loss, damp, discoloured and streaky varnish, surface dirt, slack canvas, stretcher marks and fracturing due to past impacts'.
Restoration work was carried out by Seonaid Wood and Elizabeth Holford. The paintings were returned to their original position in the Elwin Room in September 2003.
Brenda Vicary-Finch ( BRLSI Administrator) viewing the restoration work with Seonaid Wood (right) in 2002.
The photos below show the poor condition of the paintings before restoration:
Detail from Mercury with the conservator, Elizabeth Holford.