Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Saturation

by Conservation

2/12/2018

Bernardo Strozzi , David and Goliath , conservation , paintings , paintings conservation

Our masterpiece by Bernardo Strozzi, David with the Head of Goliath, is currently being conserved.  The painting was most recently treated here in the 1970s and the paintings conservator at that time used a relatively stable synthetic varnish.  As a result, the varnish on the painting was only very slightly discolored.  However, more significantly, the varnish no longer saturated the paint.  Saturation is an important characteristic for a varnish on an Old Master painting such as this, but it can be a difficult to explain.  Once in a while an example such as this detail of David’s face demonstrates the importance of saturation.  In the before treatment image on the left, the varnish is “de-saturated” and almost translucent.  On the right, the old varnish has been removed and replaced with a saturating coat.  (The face on the right has also been retouched, but the inpainting was not very extensive.  For example, tiny dots of inpainting cover the light spot of abraded paint in the center in David’s rosy cheek.)  Viewed alone, the detail on the left looks very good.  It’s only when compared to the image on the right that the importance of good saturation is apparent.  The new varnish is a newer synthetic coating and it should perform better at maintaining saturation.

Look for all of David with the Head of Goliath to make its post-conservation appearance in our upcoming exhibition Cagnacci: Painting Beauty and Death opening March 23, 2018.