Callahan Children, about 1785
Since the painting was created on bed ticking, it is likely that the artist primed the canvas. The ground color appears dark gray and is moderately thick. The ground does not hide the texture of the support. The vertical bands of the support are slightly visible in the paint surface due to abrasion and increased paint transparency. Under microscopic examination, the ground can be seen pushing up through cracks in the paint layer, suggesting that excessive heat and pressure were used in the lining process. Moating around some of the impasto, overall weave emphasis, and pitting in the paint surface are also probably due to past lining treatments.
There is moderate impasto in the white details of the girls dresses and low impasto in the highlights of the hair and flesh. The shadows between the fingers were painted brownish red. The modeling of forms is crude. The paint is generally opaque, except in the background, which is thinly painted with dark transparent browns. The faces contain remnants of previous glazes.
There are numerous losses in the paint and ground layers that reveal bare canvas. The painting appears to have suffered from overcleaning, particularly in the hair of the older girl and in the background. Areas of damage include the nose and right shoulder of the girl at right and the left side of the other girls neck. Various losses occur throughout the white dresses, on and underneath the hand holding the fruit, and in the background at right near the younger girls left shoulder.
The varnish is applied in a relatively thick, uneven coating. The varnish is dull, discolored, and abraded. A fine network of cracks runs throughout the varnish. The surface has grime, accretions, and streaks. A partial removal of the surface coating at some point in the past has left remnants of older varnish in the low points of the canvas weave. Some of this discoloration appears as if it may have been toned with pigment, perhaps to disguise the extent of the damage.