Monday, September 22, 2008

Restoration Work in Progress

While I was at the Chrysler Museum, I met this fellow Mark Lewis who is a Painting Conservator. Mark is cleaning and restoring a 450 year old painting by Venetian painter Paolo Veronese. The painting is called Virgin and Child with Angels Appearing to Saints Anthony Abbot and Paul, the Hermit, 1562 This alter piece was one of three works by Veronese commissioned by the Benedictine monks at an Italian Church, San Benedetto Po.

Here's a little history on the painting for you, Napoleon's troops confiscated this and two other companion pieces, along with countless other works of art, during the French occupation of northern Italy in the late 1790s. The Virgin and Child with Angels Appearing to Saints Anthony Abbot and Paul, the Hermit eventually surfaced in France, where it was purchased by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., in 1954. The two other paintings appeared in an English Country Manor in the nineteenth century: one was unfortunately destroyed by fire, but The Consecration of Saint Nicholas was acquired by the National Gallery in London. The abbey church and cloisters still stand today, with reproductions of the paintings placed above the original altars.

Mark, is removing the protective layer of varnish that has yellowed with age. He then applies a layer of Isolating Varnish, filling and restoring loses. I could actual see the weave of the fabric in some places. What was interesting about that was that most linens use a criss cross weave while this one was more like a tweed stitch. Mark explained to me that this helpd the painting to have more flexibility thus allowing better preservation over time. I asked Mark how long the restoration will take and he said roughly 500 hours. Mark only works on Wednesdays so the restoration process will be on display for quite a while.

I asked Mark how he got his background. After college he went to France where he apprenticed to a master restorer for a few years. He returned to the United States and secured a job at a gallery working in the restoration department. Eventually he perfected his skills and is now the Chrysler's paintings conservator. He also works as a member of various restoration teams For the Smithsonian Institute.




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