Collection / Conservation / Lucas Cranach the Elder: The Feast of Herod

 

ON THE CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION OF THE PAINTING "THE FEAST OF HEROD" BY LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER

On the occasion of the exhibition "Cranach the Elder” (23 November 2007 to 17 February 2008) the painting "The Feast of Herod” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, previously kept in storage, was conserved and restored. In order to permit the work’s presentation, it was necessary to begin the process with conservation measures aimed at securing the painting’s substance. Within the framework of intensive stabilization measures, areas of the paint layer which no longer adhered properly to the ground were newly fixed. As the uneven surface of the work reveals, the wooden panel had warped over the course of time and is cracked in places in the vicinity of the joints.

Detail, Tin plate before restoration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These areas had been filled in with putty and retouched. The retouched areas, many quite substantial in size, had become discoloured, severely compromising the work’s overall aesthetic appearance. In order to clarify and tone down these areas optically, they were chromatically regulated and integrated by means of new retouching.

Detail, Final condition of tin plate after retouching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The varnish borne by the painting’s surface had been reduced very unevenly in the past, light-shaded areas such as the faces and tablecloth being cleaned more often and more thoroughly than dark areas such as the hair or the background. On the whole the painting thus does not appear to have yellowed very severely. The retouching and putty presumably conceal badly damaged areas of the surface which would have to be exposed and then again puttied and retouched if the varnish was to be removed. The decision was therefore made against removing the varnish so as not to subject the painting to the solvents and mechanical stress.

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