Michael Gallagher is the Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge in the Department of Paintings Conservation.
Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Michael Gallagher uses gouache paint to retouch losses in the Jabach portrait, which has been undergoing conservation for the past eight months.
With the exception of the inevitable damage caused by the turning over of the top of the canvas to attach it to a smaller stretcher (see my September 24, 2014, post about this aspect of the painting's history), the great Jabach family portrait is in exceptional condition. Nevertheless, there are several small losses and scrapes that are typical for a painting of this age and size and which hung in domestic interiors—albeit quite grand ones—for centuries. So the next step is to retouch these areas.
Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Michael Gallagher applies the first layer of varnish to the surface of the Jabach portrait.
After the completion of cleaning and structural work on the Jabach portrait, the next step in its conservation is the application of a first layer of varnish. The varnish acts as an isolating layer between the original painting and the retouching—which will come later—but, most importantly, it begins the process of saturating the surface, which is so crucial to a painting of this period.
Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015
Conservators Michael Gallagher, George Bisacca, Alan Miller, and Jonathan Graindorge Lamour reattach the Jabach portrait to its stretcher in preparation for the final phases of conservation.
Just before the holidays, we reached a major milestone in the conservation of the Jabach portrait: the reattachment of the canvas to its stretcher. The short video above gives a good sense of the process undertaken with George Bisacca, Alan Miller, and Jonathan Graindorge Lamour. In all, it took about a couple of hours.
Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014
After the severe distortions at the top of the Jabach portrait were successfully reduced, the next step was to prepare the painting for re-stretching. This involved the attachment of a new strip-lining; new pieces of canvas were adhered along all four edges of the reverse of the painting using a heat-activated adhesive. (It should be noted that these can be easily removed in the future if necessary.)
Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014
One thing you learn quickly in conservation is that the objects under your care make the rules! Frequently, well-thought-through plans or strategies for approaches to treatment have to be tweaked or completely rethought.
Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Now that I've finished the cleaning of the Jabach portrait, it is time to deal with the distortion resulting from the top of the picture having been folded over (as described in my last post). We first had to construct a platform on which to lay the picture face down while working on the reverse side of the canvas. This was custom built by our structural specialist, George Bisacca.
Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Now that the varnish removal from the Jabach portrait is finished, it's time to turn to a rather more thorny issue: the structural conservation work.
The original and surprisingly fine canvas is constructed from five pieces of fabric: a large, central rectangle; two horizontal bands, one each top and bottom; and two vertical bands, one each at the left- and right-hand sides. The horizontal bands run the full width of the composition. This construction is entirely original, planned from the outset to accommodate the monumental scale of the painting while carefully situating the seams in the peripheral areas of the composition.
Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The cleaning of the Jabach portrait is going well, and we in Paintings Conservation are all transfixed by the exceptional quality of the painting. One area I was particularly looking forward to seeing without the yellowed varnish was the beautiful figure of Jabach's daughter Anna Maria. She really anchors the right-hand side of the composition, and her self-aware, direct gaze pulls us into the Jabach family's rarefied world. Below are some photographs that I took during the cleaning.
Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I had first seen the Jabach family portrait in a warehouse in London over a year ago and loved it, but I'll admit that when it finally arrived in our paintings conservation studio at the Museum this past June, I was a bit overwhelmed—it's enormous! Fortunately, the work's current condition needs to be fully documented before conservation can begin. This not only helps a conservator understand the painting and its issues but also provides some breathing space and thinking time.