Starting the restoration of Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait’ | National Gallery

Starting the restoration of Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait’ | National Gallery

My name is Larry Keith. I’m the Head of
Conservation and Keeper of the National Gallery and I’ll be leading our
department’s restoration efforts of our newest acquisition, Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria’, which you see behind me. The picture is painted on canvas which has in turn been relined; that is glued to
another canvas and so our treatment will address both the structure of the
picture as well as the surface of the painting itself that is to say
the discoloured varnishes, old retouchings and restoration we feel is
appropriate to making the picture work properly again. Another important part of
the treatment we’ll be considering as we work is how we might
frame the picture appropriately for it to go back on display in the Gallery. Any conservation treatment we
undertake at the National Gallery is part of a wider effort
of coordinated activity of both conservators, conservation scientists
from our Scientific department and the picture’s curators. We all work together
as the treatment unfolds to understand the technique, the materials, the artistic intent and that in turn helps
guide the restorer’s choices, the conservator’s choices, about levels
of cleaning and retouching. The first thing we do is to
undertake a series of investigations using non-destructive imaging techniques. Most famously people know about
infrared and x-radiography but now we’ve got a whole range
of new analytical techniques as well which are managed by
both the Imaging Photographic and Scientific departments that help us
learn a great deal more about the pigments used there, how they’re used
across the canvas, the likely damages and important things about layer structure and changes and these guide our first efforts
in thinking about how to commence with the cleaning itself.

5 thoughts on “Starting the restoration of Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Self Portrait’ | National Gallery

  1. I wonder if restoration is even something that should be done at all, especially retouching. These are historical pieces that should not be tampered with. In 50 or 100 years the technology will likely be much better than now. It would be intelligent to perhaps only do small parts at a time, if you must.

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