Case Study
 

"Dutch Orphans Reunited"
           

Gerbrand Van den Eeckhout "Figures"
Before Treatment

           
           
           
Examination
December 9, 2009 to December 13, 2009
           
           

Description
           
A turbaned figure on the right stands next to a seated figure. Both are looking upward toward a robed figure of Christ with bound hands holding a reed as a scepter in mockery. The top of Christ's head is missing, as is the head of a figure in the upper right corner. The lower left corner includes the outstretched right arm of a cut-off figure. The darkened varnish has obscured the intended palette and compositional details. Several previous cleaning tests rivet the surface. The painting is unsigned and undated.
           
           
Stretcher 
           
The support has been stretched onto a pine stretcher, H. 72" x W. 32 1/2", comprised of four outside members and one horizontal cross member. The outside vertical members are not the same size. The right member is 4 1/2" wide and 1" deep contrasting with the left member that is 5 3/4" wide and 1" deep. The outside horizontal members are also 5 3/4" wide and 1" deep. The singular cross-member is 5 3/4" wide and 3/4" deep. The corner joins are a simple mortise-and-tenon design, Buck type 4a. (19) Six of the eight corner keys are present and two of the four cross-member keys are in place. There are no cracks or reinforcements. The members are slightly warped. There is one paper label, imprinted "549 Van Eckhout Fragment," affixed to the upper stretcher member.
           

Horizontal View of Stretcher
           

Stretcher Label
           
           
Support
           
The lined medium-weave linen support has twenty-eight threads per inch on both the warp and weft. The tacking edge has been removed from all four sides. The lack of distinct cusping of the edge threads reinforces that the composition has been cut down. There are indications of previous holes currently obscured by the surface film. The original canvas has been lined to a fine-weave, thirty-six-threads-per-inch secondary canvas support using an aqueous adhesive, now caramel in color. The lining has weakened over time resulting in corner separations, interior waves, and canvas bulges. The lining fabric has been fastened to the stretcher using metal tacks. These tacks have a 3/8" diameter head and a four-faceted 1/2" shaft. There is only one set of tacking holes, which confirms that the painting has not been removed from the current stretcher. The review of this support indicates that it is identical to the corresponding section for the treated painting.
           

Tacking Edge
           
           
Gesso
           
The thinly and evenly applied gesso was probably white when first applied but is now slightly discolored from oil staining. The gesso appears to be calcium carbonate and is well intact. There are no areas where the artist used the ground as a transitional tone within the painting. The review of this gesso matches that found in the examination of the previous painting.
           
           

Paint
           
The three foreground figures have been painted with confident broad strokes while smaller, blended strokes have been used to model the details. The paint composition is pellicular in nature. (20) Isolated areas of impasto are present within the highlights of the clothes and turbans, and in certain flesh areas muted by the surface film. There are numerous areas of lifting paint and previous loss. Abrasions and several surface scratches are present. The handling of the paint also matches that found in the examination of the treated painting.
           
           
Restoration Paint
           
The ultraviolet light examination revealed scattered areas of primary and secondary fluorescence concentrated along the left edge and in an area just above the leg of the large standing figure. Minor secondary fluorescence was also pronounced in the clothes of the two turbaned figures.
           
Surface Film
           
The paint surface was coated with the identical four layers as on the treated painting. A recent dirt and grime film was resting on top of an organic varnish, which was followed in turn by an older dirt layer on top of another organic varnish. Once again, the intended illusion of space, form, and palette were severely compromised by the veiling effect of these discolored films.
           
Footnotes    
(19) Buck, Richard. "Stretcher Design, A Brief Preliminary History." Intermuseum Laboratory, Oberlin, Ohio (October 1972): 16.
(20) Stout, George. "Classes of Simple Paint Structure." Technical Studies, vol. vi (1938): 231.
           
           

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Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
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