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Thursday, May 31 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Paintings) Research and Conservation of Peter Paul Rubens, The Raising of the Cross, oil on paper, 1638

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The Raising of the Cross, an oil painting on paper, was painted by Rubens for the production of an engraving by Jan Witdoeck and the image is based on the triptych of the same title, now in the Cathedral of our Lady in Antwerp and painted by Rubens in 1610-11. The sketch was acquired in 1928, as an 'oil on canvas' by the Art Gallery of Toronto as it was called, from the Holford Collection through Christie’s London. The painting was ‘cleaned’ by Thos. Agnew and Sons, London prior to the sale. Extensive restoration followed: first in 1937 in New York City and, after two thefts in 1954 and 1959, at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It is not known at what point the paper was lined to canvas but it is currently glue lined to cotton canvas. Restoration methods followed the traditions of painting conservation and the paper support at some point became obscured by extensive overpainting. Documentation and understanding of the work was essential to complex decisions of removal and the reconstruction of areas that suffered loss of form and detail. Interruptions in the surface tonality by discoloured retouchings and the discontinuity and flattening of form due to severe abrasion and loss of surface paint interfered with one’s appreciation of the work. Scientists at the Canadian Conservation Institute provided support in the initial investigations and at intervals in the treatment process by undertaking non-invasive x-ray fluorescence and analysis of samples as required. Samples were analyzed by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, polarized light microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectrometry and, in one case, by pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Infrared Reflectography (OSIRIS) was carried out by Rachel Billinge, National Gallery, London. Removal of restoration additions was challenging and time consuming and areas of ambiguity remain untouched. Recent work exposes at least some of the original intentions of the artist. Much of the paper support however modified in colour and texture, now contributes to the final image. The leached and damaged paint layers were minimally saturated with MS2A and retouching carried out with watercolour. The relationship of the sketch to the engraving and to the earlier painting will be discussed. Both informed the finish of the AGO painting. Several pentimenti remain visible and reveal the working method of the artist. The painting was reframed in a new frame to conceal the eight centimeter extension at the top border which is not by Rubens.

Speakers
avatar for Sandra Webster Cook

Sandra Webster Cook

Conservator of Paintings, Historical and Modern, Art Gallery of Ontario
Sandra Webster-Cook became an employee of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in 1987. She is currently responsible for the conservation of the historical and modern paintings in the collection of the AGO. Her work on the Canadian Historical collection included research on the paint... Read More →

Co-Authors
avatar for Kate Helwig

Kate Helwig

Senior Conservation Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute, Canadian Conservation Institute
Kate Helwig has an honours B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University in California. She studied artifact conservation at Queen’s University and received a Master’s Degree in Art Conservation in 199... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Alexandra (Sasha) Suda

Dr. Alexandra (Sasha) Suda

Curator European Art. Fraser Elliott Chair, Print & Drawing Council, Art Gallery of Ontario
Sasha Suda, who holds a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, joined the AGO in 2011 as Assistant Curator, European Art. She was promoted first to Associate Curator, European in 2013, then Curator and R. Fraser Elliott Chair, Print & Drawing Council in 2015, a... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 4:30pm - 5:00pm
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston

Attendees (77)