The scagliola frame, imitating porphyry, surrounds a scagliola slip and a white marble panel which is inlaid with the image of a peacock feather. It is Italian, probably from the 18th Century and is thought to have been acquired by Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter whilst travelling in Italy on one of his two Grand Tours in 1763 or 1768. The 1804 Burghley Inventory records: “Furniture sent from Town after the Inventory was taken…..a scagliola picture of a peacock’s feather”. The object was completely restored in 2008 after being found in a cupboard in an extremely distressed state.
Scagliola is made from a mixture of plaster, glue and dyes which are then polished, usually to imitate marble, but in this case porphyry, an igneous rock with crystal inclusions.