Conservation in Action: The Triumph of the Winter Queen, April 2011

Treatment of The Triumph of the Winter Queen: Allegory of the Just, dated 1636, by Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1590–1656):
April 2011

Conservators are now carefully removing several layers of yellow brown varnish using a mixture of solvents that dissolve the varnish layers but are safe for the original paint.

In many areas, there are old discolored restorations that must also be removed. Some of this repaint can be removed along with the varnish. In other areas the solvents only soften the old repaint, so the overpaint must be carefully and slowly removed by hand with a scalpel. Conservators work using special magnifying glasses, which enable them to distinguish between the old restoration and the original paint.

Cleaning has progressed more than one third of the way across the painting beginning on the left side. The cleaned areas that are without any varnish look matte and cooler in tone, while areas still covered in varnish look glossy and more yellow. Here are details of the faces of two of the children: Philip (left) and Elizabeth (right).

Conservators will next focus on evening out the surface and removing as much of the overpaint as possible before continuing with varnish removal.

See next update.