National Trust conservators are celebrating after uncovering what experts believe to be a long-lost work by William Morris and his artist friends.

Restorers working at Red House in Bexleyheath, south-east London, revealed the 6ft by 8ft wall painting, which was almost entirely hidden behind a fitted wardrobe, after weeks of painstaking work. It depicts Adam, Eve, Noah, Rachel and Jacob, and was designed to look like a tapestry.

Morris lived at Red House between 1860 and 1865, and regularly entertained Pre-Raphaelite luminaries such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. These artistic friends helped Morris decorate his home, turning their attentions to the walls, items of furniture and even the ceilings. However, successive owners overlaid their work with panelling, paint and wallpaper.

‘The early years at Red House were a flowering of ideas and creativity for Morris, who encouraged his friends to help him design a home uniquely medieval in feel,’ explains house manager James Breslin. ‘To uncover such a remarkable example of this early decoration has been so exciting.’

Specialists are now analysing the wall painting in a bid to determine which artist was responsible for each figure. The mystery of the faded text running along its base has already been solved, thanks to Twitter and FacebookRed House staff posted an image of it online, and within 24 hours it had been identified as a quotation from Genesis.

For more information on Red House, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house

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