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From 2003 to 2017, students from Cardiff University have worked on the Montgomeryshire altar frontal from Powysland Museum, trying to save what was once a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and artwork. This ‘Spanish’ or gilt leather is decorated in an embossed diaper-pattern, with the central artwork depicting the Holy Family returning from the Temple in Jerusalem. The gilding is created by the application of silver leaf coated in a yellow varnish to give its golden appearance. This panel is reportedly considered as one of a few enduring examples of gilt leather panels made in England during the 18th century. Its present, friable, flaking, and darkened state was caused by the use of bone glue - either as a varnish or as a facing adhesive during the 19th century relining - and moisture fluctuations caused by poor storage conditions. Yet a border around the edge of the frontal survives to show the true colours of the piece.
Special thanks to the Powysland Museum