Category: Conservation

Rare Peruzzi saved for Ulster Museum, Belfast

December 12 2023

Image of Rare Peruzzi saved for Ulster Museum, Belfast


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Ulster Museum, Belfast, has shared news that it has saved Baldassare Peruzzi's rare Nativity for its collections. Regular readers might remember that the painting was at risk of leaving the country back in 2021, with a total of £463,317 being needed to keep it for a public collection here in the UK. A vast conservation project undertaken by the National Gallery, supported by the Aldama Foundation, has allowed for the painting to be cleaned and put on display in time for Christmas.

Jean Nocret's Family of Louis XIV being Conserved

December 11 2023

Image of Jean Nocret's Family of Louis XIV being Conserved

Picture: 'X' via @MilovanCavor

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Louvre curator Nicolas Milovanovic has shared some stunning photos and videos on 'X' (formerly Twitter) of the ongoing conservation of Jean Nocret's Louis XIV and the royal family. This enormous and iconic painting, which is in the collection of the Château de Versailles, has been languishing underneath a very thick layer of yellowed varnish for decades. Click on the link to compare the images to the painting's previous appearance to see the marvellous transformation!

Kenwood Cornelius Johnson Conserved

November 27 2023

Image of Kenwood Cornelius Johnson Conserved

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian published the news at the end of last week that Kenwood House's Portrait of Diana Cecil by Cornelius Johnson has been conserved. Indeed, the removal of later overpaint in the face has shown that the sitter had 'received the so-called “Kylie Jenner treatment” – with touch-ups involving plumping the sitter’s lips and lowering her hairline.' The before and after photos (see above) show that the surface is entirely abraded (particularly in the fragile pigments of the hair), a reason why the work may have been so heavily retouched in the past. The article also explains that cleaning has revealed the portrait's date of 1634 and the artist's signature.

Click on the link above to read more.

London Art Week Symposium on Conservation

November 24 2023

Image of London Art Week Symposium on Conservation


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

London Art Week are holding a symposium on the subject of THE ART OF CONSERVATION: PRESERVATION, RESTORATION & FRAMING in December. The event is hosted by the National Portrait Gallery and contains a full day's worth of talks.

The program includes the following subjects:




The symposium will be held on 5th December 2023 and will cost a mere £20 to attend.

Restoring Notre-Dame's Damaged Paintings

November 22 2023

Image of Restoring Notre-Dame's Damaged Paintings


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Spanish speakers might be interested in this video published by RTVE which details some of the recent work that has gone into the restoration of paintings that needed conservation after the 2019 fire at Notre-Dame. The group of works requiring conservation numbers 22 in all, it appears.

Rosso Fiorentino's Deposition Conserved

November 17 2023

Image of Rosso Fiorentino's Deposition Conserved


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from the Pinacoteca civica di Volterra in Italy that their Deposition from the Cross by Rosso Fiorentino has been conserved. The conservation project, which began in September 2021, was completed by Daniele Rossi and Roberto Buda in an effort to stabilise the fragile panel and paint surface which was in a rather precarious state. Painted by the artist in 1521, the work was funded by Friends of Florence Foundation and further donations from John and Kathe Dyson and the Alexander Bodini Foundation.

Venice's Sala Quattro Porte to be Conserved

November 13 2023

Image of Venice's Sala Quattro Porte to be Conserved


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Venice that the Palazzo Ducale's famous Sala Quattro Porte will undergoing a year-long restoration project which begins this month. This incredible space, which was designed by Palladio, contains famous works by Jacopo Tintoretto, Titian and Giambattista Tiepolo. The news report above explains that €710,000 has been set aside for the task, which seems suspiciously low to me for some reason.

Stowe's State Dining Room Restored

November 6 2023

Image of Stowe's State Dining Room Restored

Picture: Purcell Architects

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Some news I missed from the summer is that the magnificent State Dining Room at Stowe has recently been restored to its former glory (with added H&S paraphernalia too I see...). It seems that technology has been at the heart of the project, with original tapestries printed on 'wipeable' wallpaper, and original chimney pieces and door mantles being 3D scanned and printed for the room.* Over £26m has been spent since the year 2000 in restoring the principle state rooms of this important house. Click on the link above to read more.

* - Is it time to reprint Stowe's magnificent lost art collection? Or perhaps the organisation of a blockbuster exhibition perhaps? All comments / ideas / dreams welcome.

Demon Uncovered in Petworth Reynolds

November 1 2023

Image of Demon Uncovered in Petworth Reynolds

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Trust shared a suitable Halloween story yesterday regarding a demon uncovered during a recent conservation project. The conservation of Joshua Reynolds' The Death of Cardinal Beaufort lead to the reappearance of a demon hiding in the shadows and beneath layers of dirty varnish.

To quote the article linked above:

John Chu, the National Trust's senior national curator for pictures and sculpture, explained: "It didn't fit in with some of the artistic rules of the times, to have a poetic figure of speech represented so literally in this monstrous figure.

"When it was first shown at the Shakespeare Gallery in 1789 it generated more controversy than any other work on show.

Critics argued that "while it was considered acceptable in literature to introduce the idea of a demon as something in the mind of a person, to include it visually in a painting gave it too physical a form", said Mr Chu.

Several friends and commentators tried to persuade Sir Joshua not to include it - or, on the painting's completion, to paint it out.

Uffizi Restores and Redisplays Lorenzetti Polyptych

October 31 2023

Image of Uffizi Restores and Redisplays Lorenzetti Polyptych


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Italy that the Uffizi in Florence have restored Pietro Lorenzetti's (Siena 1280-1348) Santa Umiltà polyptych. The polyptych, which is composed of 22 elements, has taken over four years to conserve. In line with the gallery's Diffusi project, the large work has been sent off for an exhibition at the Pinacoteca Comunale di Faenza where it will be on display until March next year.

Readers will also notice that the museum has taken the opportunity to give the multipaneled work the contemporary 'Italian' framing treatment. Click here to see the Uffizi's washing machine setting for Michelangelo's Doni Tondo.

New Release: Van Dyck in Italy - Technical Studies

October 24 2023

Image of New Release: Van Dyck in Italy - Technical Studies

Picture: Il Geko Edizioni

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Italian website Finestre sull'Arte have published an extended article on a new book dedicated to technical analysis of Van Dyck's Italian period. The publication by Michela Fasce examines sixteen works by the artist, and investigates exactly how and with what materials Van Dyck was producing paintings during this time of his career.


As an aside, it is a recurring feature that many of his Italian period paintings don't tend to age very well. Apart from the usual damages from overcleaning, many of his canvases have suffered greatly from losses and degradations of colour and vibrancy. I wonder if this might be explored in the book too...

Noël Coypel at Versailles

October 19 2023

Video: Châteaux de Versailles

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A new exhibition dedicated to Noël Coypel, father and ancestor of more celebrated artists of the same name, opened at the Châteaux de Versailles this week. The show contains 90 works, including paintings, drawings, tapestry cartoons, which illuminate his work at Versailles and beyond. The curators and conservators at the Châteaux also took this opportunity to conserve some of his more neglected works, the results of which can be seen in the video above!

The exhibition will run until 28th January 2024.

Deputy Mayor Protests at Botched Restoration

October 18 2023

Image of Deputy Mayor Protests at Botched Restoration


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Italy that the Deputy Mayor of The Municipality of Cortona (Arezzo) Francesco Attesti has written an open letter condemning the 'creative' and 'arbitrary' restoration of a painting attributed to Bartolomeo della Gatta (1448-1502) (before restoration - on the left). The work is currently on loan to the Fred Jones Museum in Oklahoma for an exhibition entitled the Treasures of Tuscany: Renaissance in Arezzo, and appears to have been 'restored' in Italy in anticipation of its loan to the American museum. The article above explains that the Mayor has called for a investigation as to whether the conservation work may constitute financial damage.

Tate Discover their Devis was Chopped in Half!

October 18 2023

Image of Tate Discover their Devis was Chopped in Half!

Picture: Tate

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Tate have posted a very fun short video on their Instagram account regarding a fascinating conservation and research project on a painting by Arthur Devis. Conservator Rachel Scott's investigation and treatment of a portrait by Devis in the collection revealed that one of the margins had been added with an old piece of canvas cut from the bottom of the painting, which suggested to her that the work had been cut-down from a much larger composition. With the help of curator Alice Insley, a trip to the Courtauld photograph library managed to find the other missing half (left), which corresponds directly to the Tate's fragment. It appears that the double portrait might have been cut in half at some point during the past, perhaps in an effort to create two paintings to sell instead of one (a common practise centuries ago!).

Perhaps a reader of AHN might know where the other of the painting might be. If so, do get in touch!

Mona Lisa Ground Layer given the Scientific Treatment

October 12 2023

Image of Mona Lisa Ground Layer given the Scientific Treatment


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

There have been a few articles floating around this week regarding an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The research paper focuses on some new analysis of the materials used in Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, suggesting that 'a rare compound, plumbonacrite' was found in its ground layer. Its authors suggest that the artist had been experimenting whilst preparing this iconic portrait (I suppose the easier question should be, what did Leonardo not do during his lifetime).

Here's the abstract, in case any one would like to delve further:

An exceptional microsample from the ground layer of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was analyzed by high-angular resolution synchrotron X-ray diffraction and micro Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, revealing a singular mixture of strongly saponified oil with high lead content and a cerussite (PbCO3)-depleted lead white pigment. The most remarkable signature in the sample is the presence of plumbonacrite (Pb5(CO3)3O(OH)2), a rare compound that is stable only in an alkaline environment. Leonardo probably endeavored to prepare a thick paint suitable for covering the wooden panel of the Mona Lisa by treating the oil with a high load of lead II oxide, PbO. The review of Leonardo’s manuscripts (original and latter translation) to track the mention of PbO gives ambiguous information. Conversely, the analysis of fragments from the Last Supper confirms that not only PbO was part of Leonardo’s palette, through the detection of both litharge (α-PbO) and massicot (β-PbO) but also plumbonacrite and shannonite (Pb2OCO3), the latter phase being detected for the first time in a historical painting.

Reynolds at the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio

October 9 2023

Image of Reynolds at the Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio

Picture: @southeastNT

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio, a National Trust property which allows visitors to see the conservation of historic works of art in action, has been busy restoring several paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds this year. To celebrate the 300th birthday of the artist, a special project of conservation was begun in 2023 to transform several paintings of his in the NT's collection. This included his portrait of the Hon. Theresa Parker from Saltram House (pictured below), which is included in the The Box in Plymouth's Reframing Reynolds: A Celebration exhibition (which will run until 29th October).

In October the conservation studio will be placing a spotlight on the conservation of Reynolds' portrait of the 3rd Duke of Dorset (pictured above), which will be on display until 19th October.

Lorenzetti's Crucifixion Returns from Restoration

October 6 2023

Image of Lorenzetti's Crucifixion Returns from Restoration


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Italy that the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena has just redisplayed a restored Crucifixion by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348). Dated to around 1328-1330, the delicate conservation work was undertaken by Stefano Casciu and funded with a generous donation from the Friends of Florence. The gallery will be displayed the restored work in a small exhibition which runs from today until 8th January 2024.

The MET are seeking a 'Conservator in Charge'

October 6 2023

Image of The MET are seeking a 'Conservator in Charge'

Picture: The New York Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are hiring a 'Conservator in Charge' for Painting Conservation.

According to the job description:

The Conservator in Charge of the Department of Paintings Conservation, one of the museum’s five conservation departments (Objects, Paper, Photographs, Textile) has the academic and administrative responsibility for the conservation and preservation of paintings throughout the Museum in accordance with the highest standards of the profession and leads a team (currently) of twelve staff members.  You should have deep experience in the treatment and technical examination of paintings, and a distinguished record and reputation in the field.  You will work closely with all curatorial departments that house paintings (the American Wing, European Paintings and Modern and Contemporary are the principal departments, but numerous others house collections), to identify the conservation needs of their collections, to establish priorities for treatment, preservation, and the technical study of objects.  In addition, you will organize and oversee the examination of paintings that enter the museum through acquisition, gift, and loan, including loan exhibitions.  You will be involved in decisions relating to the Museum environment, installations, capital projects, exhibitions and storage that involve paintings. Importantly, they will supervise efforts regarding the movement, storage, and treatment of paintings as part of the capital plan to build the Tang Wing for Modern and Contemporary art over the next years.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this job is that it comes with an annual salary of $220,000 - $270,000 per annum (!)*

Applications must be in by 1st December 2023.

Good luck if you're applying!

* - UK institutions, take note!

Delacroix's 'The Death of Sardanapalus' Restored

October 4 2023

Image of Delacroix's 'The Death of Sardanapalus' Restored

Picture: Louvre, Paris

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The European press, and many devotees to art and beauty on social media, have been sharing the news and details of the Louvre's freshly restored The Death of Sardanapalus by Delacroix. It seems that the transformation of this has been particularly striking (click here to compare the image above to its previous state), with many beautifully preserved painterly details found throughout.

Of particular excitement is news that the artist's iconic Liberty Leading the People will be the next large scale work to undergo conservation, a process which is excepted to be completed in Spring 2024.

Frans Hals at the National Gallery

October 4 2023

Video: The National Gallery, London

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Gallery's latest Frans Hals exhibition opened last week. The Guardian's less than favourable review has subsequently been counteracted by others in The Observer and The New York Times respectively. I haven't been to see it yet, however, I have been handed a copy of the exhibition catalogue which looks very promising indeed. Not only is it organised in comprehensive and beautiful way, the publication suggests that the curators have taken a bold approach to attribution (a problem which follows Hals scholarship to the present day). One such example is the inclusion of a portrait which was sold as 'School of Haarlem, circa 1615' at Sotheby's New York in 2021, doubted by both Seymour Slive and Claus Grimm (see Literature in the link), which has now been given to Frans Hals in full.

However, one of the most fascinating pieces of original research is the discovery of 'a hidden monster and skull' in the famous Chatsworth portrait, which appears to have been covered by 'later overpaint'. The gallery have produced the following video which explains the whole story.

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