A fully-restored portrait of Queen Victoria has finally returned home to Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley after vanishing for more than 70 years.
The historic painting by Lowes Cato Dickinson is a rare image of the then recently-widowed Queen and was bought for the building when it was a private home in the 1880s.
It disappeared when the building’s contents were sold in the 1940s and efforts to find it failed until last year when it was spotted by chance in a Nottinghamshire sales room.
Brought back to Keighley, it was put on display at the Bradford Council-run museum in August, but its elaborate hand-carved frame has now only just been finished with the installation of a re-carved and gilded gold crown.
The 50cm wide carving of St Edward’s crown had to be reproduced because it had broken off the frame and the fragments were thrown away.
It was recreated from early photographs of the painting at Cliffe Castle, which showed the frame intact and staff used digital imaging to calculate the crown’s size and detailing.
Keighley-based gilder Pam Keeton put back the burnished gold finish of the original.
Funding for the £1,500 conservation work was paid for by the Friends of Cliffe Castle.
Maggie Pedley, the Council’s museums and galleries manager, said: “The service is delighted that the Friends of Cliffe Castle could support this important project.
“It is a wonderful piece of conservation and has brought new life to a very important Victorian work of art.”
The portrait is full of references to Victoria’s late husband Prince Albert and shows his handkerchief lying on her knee. She wears his portrait miniature on her wrist and her veil is held in place by a sapphire and diamond coronet that was designed for her by Prince Albert in 1842.
It was bought in the 1880s by textile magnate Henry Isaac Butterfield. Museum staff searched for the portrait for more than 20 years and research showed that it had been removed to Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire, in the 1950s.
A member of staff spotted the painting earlier this year during a chance visit to a Nottinghamshire antiques centre and recognised it as the lost work.
Cliffe Castle Museum is open Tuesday to Friday (10am-4pm) and Saturday and Sunday (11am-4pm). Last admissions are at 3.30pm. It is closed on Mondays except Bank Holidays, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday.