Cleaning Leonardo's 'Adoration of the Magi'

September 24 2014

Image of Cleaning Leonardo's 'Adoration of the Magi'

Pictures: Opficio delle Pietre Dure

The Art Newspaper alerts me to the conservation of Leonardo's unfinished work of 1481, The Adoration of the Magi. The picture, which is in the Uffizi in Florence, has been cleaned of some of its uppermost layers of dirt and old varnish by Florence's conservation institute, the Opficio delle Pietre Dure.

The picture already appears to have more depth to it, especially in the sky, trees and areas such as the archway underneath the stairs. As you can see in the picture above, a number of details are now more visible than before. Below is the picture pre-conservation (see a high-res version here).

Another gain is the presence of a blue wash in the sky, which had appeared yellow thanks to the old varnish. 

The cleaning job is so far only partly done, as revealed by the (for now odd-looking) areas where the old surface layers are still visible. The image below shows the group of figures around the staircase seen in UV light. The darker greeny/blue areas are where the old varnish layers are still intact.

In the normally lit image below, you can see how murky the figures look compared with the crisp sharpness of the now-cleaned architecture. Cleaning the figures will be the hard part, as they'll be much more vulnerable to any solvents. 

There's a good selection of photos of the cleaned areas on the OPD's website here.

Update - the website ArtTrav has an interview with one of the conservation team here.  

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