Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 15°C

min temp: 11°C


Gallery: Have you seen Gainsborough’s bladders? Artist’s painting tools rediscovered after centuries in attic

15:26 18 February 2014

The discovery of several paint bladders at Gainsborough House in Sudbury.

The discovery of several paint bladders at Gainsborough House in Sudbury.


They spent hundreds of years lost in the attic; unnoticed, unloved and unused.


And despite being rediscovered in the 1960s very little is known about them – you might not know what they are at all.

These unassuming pouches go by the name of paint bladders and might well have belonged to Sudbury-born artist Thomas Gainsborough.

They were found undisturbed at his former house in Sudbury in the mid-1960s during a clear-out, not long after the house was opened to the public as a museum.

But at the time nothing was done with them and it is only now staff at Gainsborough’s House can investigate them further.

Executive director Mark Bills is planning to feature the paint bladders in an exhibition, but only after they have been examined by specialists.

“We’ve commissioned the Hamilton Kerr Institute at Cambridge University,” said Mr Bills. “They have lots of experience in this area.

“The paints will undergo a scientific test to date them and to see if it’s plausible that they’re Gainsborough’s.

“They have been in the house and now we’ve got some funding to actually do some research into them and see if they belong to Gainsborough.

“We do know they’re mid-18th Century and French.”

Nineteen pouches were found in the attic and Mr Bills said it is quite rare to find so many together.

And while being discovered at Gainsborough’s home gives a good clue to their ownership more research is need to see if it is plausible that they are his.

“It is possible they were a present to someone in the family but to buy paints at that time wasn’t cheap, they would have been a good present,” Mr Bills added.

“There are secrets yet to be revealed.”

Once the tests have been completed and the paints returned to Sudbury they will become part of an exhibition next year.

There will also be a conference about the practices of Gainsborough and other artists in the 18th Century.

And even if it turns out the paint bladders did not belong to Gainsborough they will still be a valued addition to the museum’s collection.

“To have 19 surviving is a very rare thing,” Mr Bills said. “They are really important.”



John Girt, Captain of the Bells at St Margarets Church which has managed to get through the first round heritage Lottery Fund grant approval to restore its bells.

A centuries-old church in Ipswich is celebrating taking the first steps on the road to restoring and re-hanging its bells.

Police are looking for four men following an attacj in Ipswich

Police are hunting for a group of four men following an attack in Bramford Lane, Ipswich.

Accident near Hintlesham causes delays.

There are delays on the A1071 near Hintlesham following an accident involving a car and motorbike this morning.

Sharon Halls and Daniel Compton's baby, Evie

An Ipswich couple have launched a desperate online appeal to raise at least £184,000 for the care of a premature baby born 12 weeks early in the Dominican Republic.

Felixstowe's Martello Tower P, in Langer Road, open as part of Felixstowe's Heritage weekend.

A project to restore a defensive fort dating back to the Napoleonic era has received a £50,000 boost from a heritage funding cash pot.

Anne Humphrys and Bec Jasper have set up PACT support group for parents and families of children with disabilities.

Huge increases in the number of children in Suffolk suffering from mental health problems were today laid bare - amid major concerns about the quality of services youngsters receive.

B&Q in Anglia Retail Park will close by 2017.

Home improvement giant B&Q is set to close one of its biggest Suffolk stores - at Anglia Retail Park on the edge of Ipswich, it can be revealed.

Web fire

A kitchen fire was extinguished in Walder Grave Way, Manningtree, this afternoon.

A two-year-old was freed from a car in Stowmarket today.

Police are keen to speak to the driver of a lorry who they believe can help with their enquires into a related incident on the A140.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages