Case Study
 
           
           

Historical Rewards:

A Dutch and a Flemish Discovery
           

Rubens Studio
"The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Before Treatment
           
           
           
 

Treatment
 
 

7/15/08 to 11/20/08
 
           
The painting's full treatment encompassed cleaning requirements, structural stabilization, and the retouching/revarnishing. First, each leaf of the foliated background was traced onto clear mylar. The original paint layer's condition was unknown and the tracing might prove valuable if the treatment necessitated general reconstruction of former damage.
           
The Japanese tissue was removed from the surface using damp cotton swabs. Removal caused the panel to separate into three sections, for the paper was the only binder holding the joins together. The edges of the exposed cracks were immediately consolidated using a PVA emulsion adhesive. Other weak areas were stabilized similarly.
           
           
 

Visual Treatment
 
           
 

Cleaning
 
Right Section
           
As with the van der Poel, cleaning involved the removal of discolored surface films and all areas of non-original paint. This work was carried out under binocular magnification using swabs and appropriate organic solvents. The upper dirt film was initially removed using a pH-neutral detergent.
           
Using a relatively weak organic solvent, removal of the surface films began along the right panel's left edge. Cleaning proceeded from top to bottom in thin strips. The later restoration additions were sandwiched between the varnish layers and came away easily with their removal. Almost all of the leaves were later additions. Removing the discolored varnish and overpaint exposed a light, blue sky tone as well as considerable surface abrasion.
           

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Before Treatment

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning
           
During cleaning, a rather remarkable discovery occurred. The crown of a small head appeared to the left of the female figure. The overpaint's removal uncovered a partial figure, but its context within the composition made no sense, thereby lending support to the notion that the entire painting may only be an unfinished sketch. Initially, the female figure held what appeared to be a wooden stick. Cleaning revealed that the stick was an addition: she actually was holding a ribbon that intertwined between her hands. As with the small figure, the ribbon's purpose was unknown.
           

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning
           

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail After Cleaning
           
           
The striking color change that occurred during cleaning is documented in the right detail. Under the masking veil, the female figure's dress appeared yellow and the drapery's three-dimensional quality was obscured. Cleaning reinstated the richness and strength of the original drawing.

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning
           
           
Cleaning the lower right corner uncovered another extraordinary find. A demonic dragon's head had been completely painted over. The animal's ferocious, fire-breathing character and razor-sharp teeth were in excellent condition. Now the ribbon in the figure's hand made sense: it was used to tether the animal.
           

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail Before Treatment

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning
           

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail After Cleaning
           

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Before Treatment

Rubens Studio
Right Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Cleaning
           
           
           
 

Cleaning
 
 

Center Section
 
           
While the discoveries in the panel's right section were extraordinary, further revelations occurred in the center section. The removal of varnish and overpaint to the Madonna's right uncovered a pair of arms embracing a column of flames. The arms aligned with the discovered small figure in the right panel. The below images detail this remarkable find.
           

 

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Details Before Treatment, During Cleaning, After Cleaning
           
           
Cleaning the section's upper areas brought forth still more discoveries. The scene did not occur in a wooded, foliated setting but rather in a garden that included architectural motifs. The entire background in the composition prior to treatment was a later addition; not one leaf was original. Instead, a vined enclosure enveloped the foreground figures and a gray caryatid angel supported an architectural mantle.
           

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail Before Treatment

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning
           

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail During Cleaning

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Detail After Cleaning
           
           

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Before Treatment

Rubens Studio
Center Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Cleaning
           
           
 

Cleaning
 
 

Left Section
 
           

Rubens Studio
Left Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Before Treatment

Rubens Studio
Left Section "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Cleaning
           

No further discoveries were revealed in the left panel. The following page reviews the structural and finishing work.
           
           
 

Before Treatment--After Cleaning
 
           

Rubens Studio
"The Crowning of St. Catherine"
Before Treatment

 


Rubens Studio
"The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Cleaning
           
           

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Table of Contents, Biography, "Barn Interior" Examination, Treatment,
The Flayed Pig, Related Themes, "The Crowning of St. Catherine" Examination, Visual Treatment, Structural Treatment/Completion

 





Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532
e-mail:barrybbc7@yahoo.com