Lumps, Bumps and Lots of Layers!

The Westminster Abbey Funeral Effigies


One of the most fascinating but problematic things about redressing the effigies were the multiple layers of clothing (some wearing as many as 18 items!). The under layers were often fine and beautiful and never seen – there because that is how they were worn in life, or just to act as padding for the clothed effigy. We had to work out how to protect and support each layer, respecting it’s integrity without creating too much bulk and altering the effigy’s profile. Our normal costume conservation underpinnings were rarely possible!

Lumps and bumps!

On undressing the effigies we had found a whole array of body shapes and constructions, from the beautifully carved wooden body of Nelson, to sacking covered bodies filled with tow and straw. As can be seen in images 1 (Charles II) and 2 (Nelson), prior to redressing we covered the effigy bodies in a combination of down-proof cotton to contain the dust and residues of the filling, cotton jersey to isolate the wood and Tyvek to isolate the wax thus protecting the many layers of clothing mounted over the top.

Picture 1: Charles II effigy covered with down-proof cotton and Tyvek to protect the many layers of clothing once redressed.
Picture 2: Admiral Horatio Nelson effigy covered in down-proof cotton and Tyvek.
Picture 3: Catharine, Duchess of Buckingham. Before.
Picture 4: Frances, Duchess of Richmond with her double layer of original stockings. Before.
Picture 5: William Pitt the Elder.
Picture 6: Mary II. Before and bottom right, looking underneath the previous (unoriginal) torso covering to reveal part of a boned bodice.
Picture 7: Queen Anne.

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