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Historic paintings make a welcome return home

Craftsmanship: Eldon Trimingham of the Bermuda Historical Society Museum admires his restoration work on two Perot family portraits - back home in Bermuda after a long absence. Looking on is John Cox, left, vice-presiden of the society (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Victorian-era portraits of the island’s first postmaster and his wife have finally made their way back home, thanks for the generosity of a couple 8,000 miles away who have gifted the treasures to Bermuda.

The paintings of William Bennet Perot and his wife Suzanne were gifted to the Bermuda Historical Society by Len and Beryl Davies who live in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Here they are, back were they once hung, all these years later,” said John Cox, Vice President of the society, which occupies the old Perot home adjoining the Bermuda National Library on Queen Street. “It’s incredible.”

The house, Par-la-Ville, was built in 1814 by Mr Perot alongside the Perot Post Office. He became Postmaster General in 1821.

The family portraits ended up in South Africa courtesy of Ms Davies, who is a tenth-generation descendant of Mr Perot: her grandmother, Gladys Margaret Perot, shipped an array of family artefacts home in 1935.

Andrew Bermingham, president of the society, said the Davies had alerted the group to the existence of the paintings ten years ago.

He added: “We had good copies on display. We always thought they were the originals, but these are real treasures, from nearly 200 years ago. How they ended up in South Africa is a story in itself.”

Mr Perot created postage stamps that rank among the world’s earliest, and are prized by collectors.

Mr Cox said having the portraits back in the historic building, in what was once the Perot family’s entrance hall, made an “excellent addition” to the museum of rarities from coins to carving left by Boer War prisoners sent to the island.

He added: “When the paintings arrived, they needed some help. Eldon Trimingham, who restores paintings, worked on them meticulously.”

Mr Trimingham found the paintings cracked, the varnish dulled by age and mildew, and set to cleaning them with cotton buds.

“After that, I repainted and revarnished them,” he said. “They are now looking a lot happier.”

The society finished it off by putting the portraits in new oval frames and putting them behind glass.

The free museum, which covers 400 years of Bermuda’s history, is open Monday to Friday as well as most Saturdays, from 10.30am to 1pm.

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Published July 23, 2021 at 7:52 am (Updated July 23, 2021 at 7:32 am)

Historic paintings make a welcome return home

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