A visitor to the Conservation in Focus: Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St. Andrew exhibition recently left a simple question on the Ask-An-Expert shelf. What other paintings have you fixed? The short answer is that the work of the Conservation Department is seen on every wall and in every gallery in the museum, from ancient to contemporary. A recent article highlighting the work done on a Rembrandt in our collection is a perfect example of the type of work currently performed on our collection. Now for the first time, the public can view the conservation process of one of our masterpieces, Caravaggio's Crucifixtion of St. Andrew in the Focus Gallery through September 14. Here is another, somewhat older, example of conservation work.
Next time you’re in Gallery 213, take a look at Frans Hals’s Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman. When the museum acquired the portrait in 1999, analysis revealed that the pigment in the coat of arms to be Prussian blue. Prussian blue, like Prussia now, did not exist during the lifetime of Frans Hals. Consulting with the curatorial department, the decision was made to over-paint the coat of arms.
Whether conservators are cleaning or restoring, they keep detailed notes that eventually come to the archives. From these notes, we have these instructive photographs showing the process of painting over the coat of arms. After removing the varnish, the colors of the coat of arms were made much brighter. The colors were then toned down to a uniform neutral tone mimicking the undertone of the background; warm and cool hues were then applied and the final brushstrokes served to unify the area. Though reversible, the coat of arms is currently invisible. It's still there, but the painting has been returned to its original state.