A career conserving Grinling Gibbons

David Luard is considered a leading conservator of Gibbons carvings

22 Mar 2021

2021 marks the tercentenary of the death of legendary artist, sculptor and craftsman, Grinling Gibbons. His masterpieces adorn palaces, country houses, churches and museums across Britain and his name is shorthand for ‘simply the best’.

To celebrate the anniversary year, we’re shining a light on conservator and Icon member David Luard, considered one of the leading experts on the conservation and restoration of Gibbons’ carvings. Read about Luard’s fascinating career below.

David Luard of Luard Conservation gained his Diploma in ‘Restoration and Conservation of Wood, Stone and Allied Polychrome Finishes’ from the City and Guilds of London Art School in the early 1980’s. He was working with Hugh Harrison of Herbert Read Ltd in Devon from 1986 when the company was contracted to assist in the conservation and restoration of the fire-damaged Grinling Gibbons carvings at Hampton Court.  Of the over 50 carvings in six rooms, 90% had been affected - one 11 feet high - including over 30 in the King’s State Bedroom alone.

[Luard] was contracted to assist in the conservation and restoration of the fire-damaged Grinling Gibbons carvings at Hampton Court. Of the over 50 carvings in six rooms, 90% had been affected

In 1993, Luard left Herbert Read and established Luard Conservation, immediately returning to Hampton Court Palace to remove the yellow wax from the overmantle in the Queen’s State BedchamberHe produced several condition reports and surveys of Grinling Gibbons carvings for Historic Royal Palaces including those at Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, the Royal Household at Windsor Castle and St. James’s Palace.  The surveys were conducted every five years and entailed detailed observations and recommendations for further intervention. 

© Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license Wood carving by Grinling Gibbons in the apartments of king William III at Hampton Court Palace

The late David Esterly (acknowledged international expert on Grinling Gibbons) invited Luard to take on the role of Consultant Conservator for the four-month V&A Exhibition in 1998 devoted to the 17th century master carver.  This work involved the conservation of the ‘Cosimo’ panel in situ at the Pitti Palace in Florence prior to its inclusion in the exhibition. Luard was also responsible for the delivery of other carvings originating from Badminton House, Kirtlington Park and Hampton Court Palace to the exhibition. 

In 2018, Luard stepped in to replace David Esterly to deliver the Annual Lecture to the Antiquarian Society of The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) on Gibbons and his carvings. This coincided with the start of the restoration of the Cassiobury House Gibbons’ overmantle carving owned by the AIC. He was also Guest Speaker at the Fairfax House Symposium in Georgian Studies entitled ‘Rethinking the Genius of Grinling Gibbons’ the same year.

Since 2007, Luard has been a guest Lecturer at his alma mater, the City and Guilds of London Art School, teaching Timber Conservation, Heraldry, and Professional Practice on the Conservation degree course.

Luard is a founding member of the newly formed (2020) Grinling Gibbons Society. To celebrate the tercentenary of Gibbons’ death in August 2021, the GGS is coordinating a nation-wide tercentenary festival and programme of public events, creative projects, tours, online content and resources, as well as a major national touring exhibition. 

Find out more here

Header image: Wood carving at Petworth House by Grinling Gibbons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.