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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Cut and paste

by Conservation


CAMConservation , paintings conservation , X-ray , X-raying_paintings , X-radiography , hidden paintings

Our paintings conservator has been working on this very large 17th century Neapolitan still-life. 

Over the centuries, the edges of the canvas in particular have suffered damage and loss. There were broad areas of fill and overpaint along all sides. Our conservator suspected that the lower left corner was an added piece of canvas.

When the edges of the painting were X-rayed as a part of the preliminary examination, the suspect corner was easily seen to be comprised of a separate piece of fabric. In an odd cut-and-paste maneuver, someone had cut out the corner of the painting and had spliced in another piece of canvas. 

The original canvas was probably very damaged, torn or shredded. The spliced addition was supported by a lining fabric attached to the back of the whole painting, probably at the same time. 

Once our conservator started cleaning, however, there was another surprise. The spliced-in canvas comes from another painting!

Shown below with the addition outlined in red, the decorative green design has an extreme perspective that looks as if it depicts a floor or a ceiling.  It’s unlikely that the painting it comes from could ever be identified.  In fact, it may not even exist anymore since it was obviously cut up.

Identification of the green pigments might lead to dating the cut painting, however.  In the meantime, covering the added piece will just be added to the mysteries of the painting and its conservation.  Here are some others:

Behind the Scenes in Conservation: So ’Egg-citing!’

Behind the Scenes in Conservation: A watchful eye! 

Unidentified Neapolitan artist (Italian, active 17th century), Still Life with Game, oil on canvas, Bequest of Frieda Hauck by exchange, 1956.10