Blogs/ Now at The Met/ The Conservation Continues: Revealing Jabach's Daughter Anna Maria

The Conservation Continues: Revealing Jabach's Daughter Anna Maria

Gallagher cleaning the varnish off Anna Maria

Michael Gallagher removes discolored varnish from the face of Jabach's daughter Anna Maria.

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.

Two images of Anna Maria

Left: Anna Maria before cleaning. The grayish patches across her face are areas of blanched varnish caused by past condensation. Right: The cleaning commences. The first change is that the blanched varnish patches are gone.

Two images of Anna Maria

Left: The varnish is gradually removed from the left side of the face. Right: Anna Maria's pearly complexion begins to appear.

An interesting aspect that has emerged is how the artist captures Anna Maria's reddish blonde hair and complements it with the color choices in her jewelry and costume. This was only partially discernible prior to cleaning.

Anna Maria

A candid shot taken with my cell phone after the varnish was completely removed. The eagle-eyed among you will see that there are still small patches of old, discolored retouching on some of the more prominent craquelure. I will remove this as a separate stage now that the varnish is off.

Discussions about the cleaning of paintings frequently emphasize how the colors change as the discolored varnish is removed, but equally important is recovering the tonal range. Correctly balancing tonal values is one of the most difficult challenges for a figurative painter. This painting is a carefully orchestrated fiction: the artist had to create and combine every compositional element. Le Brun has showcased his skill in depicting the unique qualities of individual materials and how they respond to the fall of light, whilst simultaneously combining everything into an elegant and harmonious whole.

Left: Detail of Anna Maria's dog | Right: Detail of still life

Left: Detail of Anna Maria's dog during cleaning. Right: Detail of the still life at Jabach's feet. (There are a few paint losses along the original seam and in the marble bust, but I'll be dealing with these at the retouching stage several months from now.)

Note in the image of Anna Maria's faithful hound how the yellowed varnish swamps all the gray tones in the dog's coat, to say nothing of Anna Maria's fabulous brocaded dress. Similarly, the removal of the varnish from the still life at Jabach's feet reveals Le Brun's expert balancing of tonal values.

Photographs by Michael Gallagher

See all posts related to the Jabach painting.

Comments / 11 comments

  • {{ comment.dateText }}