Three portraits depicting early saints of the Catholic church – Pope Gregory I, St Jerome, and St Augustine of Hippo – have been conserved by the National Trust and returned to display at Chastleton House in West Oxfordshire.
A full technical analysis of the paintings, originally a set of four, was undertaken at the Courtauld Institute of Art’s Conservation Department (with funding, for the portrait of St Augustine, from the Getty Foundation panel painting initiative).
It is thought that the images were produced in Britain in the late 16th or early 17th century, but researchers also identified stylistic influences from the Netherlands.
‘We believe they were painted by native English or Anglo-Netherlandish artists,’ explained Rebecca Hellen, the Trust’s Senior National Conservator of Paintings.
The fourth portrait – St Ambrose of Milan – has been missing since the early 20th century.
‘It might have been sold or given away and so could be hanging on somebody’s wall, unrecognised,’ said Ruth Peters, Senior Collections and House Officer at Chastleton.