Portrait of a Man - Pentimenti

Pentimenti, or changes made to the composition long ago that have become visible due to the aging of the materials, appear at the collar, where the original millstone ruff was painted out in favor of a flat, pleated collar. The cuffs also were originally adorned with lace. Presumably, such concessions to fashion were made according to the sitter's wishes. Based on the style of the flat collar, these changes were probably made sometime in the late 1620s or early 1630s, when the less extravagant collar came into fashion. Given van Dyck's travels at the time, another artist probably would have been employed to make these alterations.

The changes open a window into the painting's history, and they also pose challenging questions for conservation treatment:

• How do you document multiple iterations of the painting?

• What stage of the painting's life should be represented?

• To what extent should pentimenti be suppressed?

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