National Gallery's head of conservation, Larry Keith, about how he and his team will be cleaning the Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait.
Peter Paul Rubens’s early painting The Massacre of the Innocents (around 1610) heads back home to the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp, where the artist lived and worked, for a solo presentation (26 September-April 2019) during Antwerp Baroque 2018.
This dynamic, large-scale work, a heart-wrenching depiction of the Biblical story, was made shortly after Rubens’s return to Antwerp after eight years in Italy. It is a crucial demonstration of an “alchemical meeting” between what the artist learned there—an “incredible respect” for sculpture, the human body and a Caravaggesque “drama and enjoyment of light and contrast”—and Northern and Flemish characteristics such as directness, saturated colours and precise brushstrokes, Suda says. “There’s a dynamism for me of what comes out of that sort of alchemy that makes his early work feel like it’s so full of tension.”
Art Conservators Gillian McMillan’s gradual removal of most of the varnish, initially using very thin, small pieces of tissue for control, revealed not only the artist’s brushwork—“one of the most exciting things”
The restoration and research project, which involved over 25 specialists, including scientists and art and fashion historians, began with intensive scientific analysis, including x-ray fluorescence, infrared reflectology and Raman spectroscopy.