ROOM CEILING PROJECT


In 1919, William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan began construction of Hearst Castle, the landmark estate set atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Simeon, California. Nearly 250,000 acres were then in Mr. Hearst’s possession. By 1947, Mr. Hearst and Miss Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms sitting amidst 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The historic home opened to the public in 1958, and is now accredited by the American Association of Museums. Many of the Castle’s 25,000 artifacts are in need of attention, so that they can continue to inspire, educate and delight over 835,000 visitors each year. Friends of Hearst Castle helped fund one of the most magnificent of these artifacts, the 15th century ceiling from Barbastro in northeastern Spain located in the Billiard Room of Casa Grande, the estate’s main house.

The ceiling depicts gaming events and secular scenes painted on the sides of the main beams and along the frieze.

On April 30, 1930, art dealer and author Arthur Byne wrote to W. R. Hearst offering this ceiling for sale:

“Barbastro is a very important 15th century example, Gothic in period and style similar to the one recently put up in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Size 16x36 feet (could be used to cover two small rooms). This ceiling is decorated in the best tradition of the Spanish ceiling painters, with the Moorish triangles formed of little white lozenges framing heraldic scenes. If you are not interested in this, I shall probably send it on to the Boston museum.”

The magnificent work now resides at Hearst Castle, where millions of visitors have enjoyed its beauty and historical significance. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Friends of Hearst Castle, visitors may now appreciate its original splendor.

Phase I - Conservation began with the stabilization of split and loose wood pieces and consolidation of insecure paint. Then all surface accumulation and soil was removed. Once cleaning was completed, it was then possible to assess the extent of damage and loss. Conservators then applied a thin coating of varnish (an “isolation layer”) to protect what was left of the original surface.

Phase II – To make ceiling aesthetically pleasing, a precise “inpainting” was performed to restore what had been lost to the years. Finally, a varnish layer was applied to the entire surface to protect it.

The entire undertaking took five years to complete and entailed over 4,000 labor hours at a cost over $500,000.

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"Hearst Castle", "Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument",
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