Treatment: Goals and Ethics

Informed by the information gained during examination and imaging, conservators and curators at the Worcester Art Museum and at KMSKA arrived at the following goals for treatment:

Removal or reduction of the darkened, yellowed varnish layers. The natural resin varnish layers were no longer serving the purpose of saturating the paint film. Instead, the darkened, cracked coating obscured the painting and flattened the tonal range, robbing the painting of its sense of depth and making the painting more difficult to read.

Removal of overpaint. Several restoration campaigns included retouching that covered original paint. Much of this retouching had shifted in color over time, resulting in a poor color match. In order to come closer to the artist's intent, these overpaints must be removed.

Application of a new varnish coating. Re-varnishing the painting both saturates the surface and acts as an isolation layer, separating restoration work from the original surface.

Filling of losses. Filling losses in the panel and in the paint film would lead to a more even, coherent surface.

Inpainting of losses. Inpainting, or retouching only where there is loss, would prevent the losses from disrupting the overall visual impact, achieving a unified appearance. As with any materials added during treatment, all inpainting must be easily reversible.

Suppression of pentimenti. Colleagues at KMSKA asked that the pentimenti be toned using reversible materials, minimizing the visual impact of the changes while allowing them to be discovered upon close inspection. At the same time, the very old, dark-brown overpaint covering the window and collar would be toned to more closely match the rest of the background. By taking this approach, we aim to achieve a balance between honoring the artist's original intent and respecting meaningful changes during the history of the painting.

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