Louvre to clean another Leonardo

January 15 2016

Image of Louvre to clean another Leonardo

Picture: Louvre

The Louvre has announced that they're going to clean Leonardo's late work, St John the Baptist. This is a brave move, for their last major restoration, of Leonardo's Virgin and Child with St Anne, was controversial and (in my opinion) not done especially well.

I'm afraid in my experience museum conservation departments don't always have the best conservators.

Still, according to The Art Newspaper, it looks like the conservation will focus on thinning the many layers of old varnish, not removing them entirely. This practice is more in keeping with the Louvre's traditional policy of not overly cleaning pictures. Indeed, the policy accounts for why the Louvre's collection is generally in such excellent condition. Remember, no single group of people has done more damage to paintings than those charged with 'conserving' them. 

Another curious thing about the decision to clean the Leonardo is that so many other pictures at the Louvre, including dozens in the same Italian gallery as the Leonardos, are almost impossible to appreciate thanks to the thick layers of dust (as I reported here last year). If only the Louvre, instead of comprehensively cleaning one picture at a time, could just go around with a feather duster every now and then, the whole collection would be in much better shape.

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