THE National Trust is to embark on one of the “most significant” painting conservation projects in their history.

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ artwork Macbeth and the Witches is to be taking down from the walls at Petworth House and restored.

The £30,000 project is expected to transform the gloomy discoloured piece to its former glory. The artwork is the largest in the property’s collection and hangs prominently in the stately Square Dining Room.

National Trust bosses have described the project as a “substantial investment” but said it was made possible thanks to donations and raffle-ticket sales.

Andy Loukes, curator at Petworth House said: “For many years the darkened appearance of this painting has understandably given visitors the impression that our collection is uncared for.

“The traditional conservation view has been that the painting is so dark because the artist used bitumen in his pigments – which he did on occasion. We are now of the opinion the painting can be much improved by conservation.”

The artwork, which will be taken away on July 31, was acquired in 1804 by the 3rd Earl of Egremont. It depicts a scene from William Shakespeare’s famous play.

The house is also embarking on a project which will see more than 50 paintings re-lit over the next two years.

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