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HOW DOES A PAINTING GET RESTORED? THE STORY OF THE RESTORATION OF “THE PENITIENT MARY MAGDALENE”

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THE RESTORATION OF THE PENITENT MARY MAGDALENE

Mary Magdalene-2
 Cecco del Caravaggio (Francesco Boneri), The Penitent Mary Magdalene. Photo: Anna Danielsson/Nationalmuseum.

The conservation of The Penitent Mary Magdalene by a pupil of Caravaggio on view at Nationalmuseum Sweden

Through the use of such a simple New Media tool as a vimeo clip, the National Museum of Sweeden has allowed viewers to see the restoration work on the famous painting,

According to the Museum’s website,

The Penitent Mary Magdalene has not been on view for a long time due to the painting’s poor condition. Last year thorough conservation work was carried out and after 200 hours of work, it is once again possible to enjoy its many exquisite details. It was hidden under thick layers of dirt and yellowed varnish and there were older, discoloured retouches from earlier restorations.

Caravaggio’s Student</blockquote>
Another reason for the work’s new-found prominence is the fact that we now know a lot more about the group of painters to which the artist belonged. He was long known simply as Cecco del Caravaggio, pupil of the great Caravaggio. Lately some researchers have identified him as the artist Francesco Boneri. Boneri lived in Rome in the early 17th century and painted altarpieces for churches as well as easel paintings for private art collectors with religious as well as profane motifs.

Layer upon Layer
The work is painted on a coarse linen canvas prepared with a thin, reddish ground layer. After this, the artist applied a thin, dark-brown primer over the entire surface before painting the figure. The primer is used to heighten the contrast between light and dark. Thinly painted, semi-transparent areas of shadow stand out against pastose, solid areas of paint. An example of the latter is the paint used for skin tones, which has a high white-lead content.

What Could be Seen
Mary Magdalene detail-1The facial details are surprisingly well preserved – for instance, the red paint on the subject’s lips and cheeks. In her hair we can make out thin brush strokes that emphasize her flowing curls.

The Process</blockquote>
To begin the process of conserving the painting, the surface dirt was first removed using distilled water. After this, it was possible to see where the original paint had lifted or flaked slightly. This was especially true of the brown earth tones in Mary Magdelene’s cloak. The paint was stabilized by using isinglass (sturgeon glue) and a heated spatula. Only then could the heavily yellowed varnish be removed, millimetre by millimetre, using a solvent that did not affect the original paint.

The Scalpel and the Touch-up
<blockquote>Oil paintings over 400 years old are relatively robust and can withstand fairly strong solvents. Older, discoloured retouches were also removed. A scalpel was used to scrape away any residual dirt and varnish from indentations in the paint surface. The pin-sized spots where the paint had flaked were cemented and touched up, so that they were no longer visible to the naked eye.

For the touch-ups watercolour paints were used that can be removed if necessary with no risk of damaging the original paint. After 200 hours of conservation work, we can once again enjoy the many exquisite details in the painting; the saint’s sensitively painted skin and her almost transparent tears and the light from the artist’s studio window reflected in the little glass bottle.

More Information: Art Daily

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SWEEDEN

Through the use of such a simple New Media tool as a vimeo clip, the National Museum of Sweeden has allowed viewers to see the restoration work on the famous painting, “The Penetint Mary Magdalne.”

According to the Museum’s website,

The Penitent Mary Magdalene has not been on view for a long time due to the painting’s poor condition. Last year thorough conservation work was carried out and after 200 hours of work, it is once again possible to enjoy its many exquisite details. It was hidden under thick layers of dirt and yellowed varnish and there were older, discoloured retouches from earlier restorations.

Caravaggio’s Student

Another reason for the work’s new-found prominence is the fact that we now know a lot more about the group of painters to which the artist belonged. He was long known simply as Cecco del Caravaggio, pupil of the great Caravaggio. Lately some researchers have identified him as the artist Francesco Boneri. Boneri lived in Rome in the early 17th century and painted altarpieces for churches as well as easel paintings for private art collectors with religious as well as profane motifs.

Layer upon Layer

The work is painted on a coarse linen canvas prepared with a thin, reddish ground layer. After this, the artist applied a thin, dark-brown primer over the entire surface before painting the figure. The primer is used to heighten the contrast between light and dark. Thinly painted, semi-transparent areas of shadow stand out against pastose, solid areas of paint. An example of the latter is the paint used for skin tones, which has a high white-lead content.

What Could be Seen

The facial details are surprisingly well preserved – for instance, the red paint on the subject’s lips and cheeks. In her hair we can make out thin brush strokes that emphasize her flowing curls.

The Process

To begin the process of conserving the painting, the surface dirt was first removed using distilled water. After this, it was possible to see where the original paint had lifted or flaked slightly. This was especially true of the brown earth tones in Mary Magdelene’s cloak. The paint was stabilized by using isinglass (sturgeon glue) and a heated spatula. Only then could the heavily yellowed varnish be removed, millimetre by millimetre, using a solvent that did not affect the original paint.

The Scalpel and the Touch-up

Oil paintings over 400 years old are relatively robust and can withstand fairly strong solvents. Older, discoloured retouches were also removed. A scalpel was used to scrape away any residual dirt and varnish from indentations in the paint surface. The pin-sized spots where the paint had flaked were cemented and touched up, so that they were no longer visible to the naked eye. For the touch-ups watercolour paints were used that can be removed if necessary with no risk of damaging the original paint. After 200 hours of conservation work, we can once again enjoy the many exquisite details in the painting; the saint’s sensitively painted skin and her almost transparent tears and the light from the artist’s studio window reflected in the little glass bottle.

More Information:
ArtDail

More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/68589/The-conservation-of-The-Penitent-Mary-Magdalene-by-a-pupil-of-Caravaggio-on-view-at-Nationalmuseum-Sweden[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org

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