Saturday, January 30, 2010
ISABELLA 1860? 1767?
Fancy finding this is your barn!
This happened to a customer of mine.
A dust covered, mildew infested oil painting
wrapped in spiderwebs......crying for help.
All we know that it was painted by his great, great aunt in c.1860 who probably copied it from another painting dated on the verso 1787. The painter would have not personally met the model and at that time there would have not been any photographic reference. This leads us to think at the artist either used another painting/drawing as a reference, or used her imagination as a source. Not knowing who the model is, we are calling her "ISABELLA" , which happens to be the name of the frame we ended up choosing
to enhance her beauty.
It took me a couple of weeks to clean off the surface grime and mildew. All the dirt, dust, soot and dead insects were removed from the back of the canvas and the little pockets under the stretcher frame. We decided to keep the original stretcher since it was in a fair condition and featured hand-made nails. The canvas itself turned out to be in the better condition that I originally expected, beautifully aged, tight weaved European (?) linen. The paint film responded well to light emulsion cleaner and after two layers of new varnish ISABELLA was truly beaming! The painting has a couple of small puncture holes and some surface scrapes but we elected not to restore those at this time.
For now they will remain as souvenirs of ISABELLA's journeys.
We are still gathering more information on the artist and the model, trying to establish what the value of this piece would be.
Cleaning an oil painting is a job for a professional. You can gently brush off dry dirt, -try using soft, fresh white bread. Applying water or soap could ruin your painting: it softens the paint film, causes layers to separate and activates the grown of mildew. So: don't do it! Leave it to a professional.
For the frame we chose a traditional cassetta panel frame which would have been highly in fashion in the 17Th century. And still is today. The word "Cassetta" means "a little box" and refers to the moulding profile that features a flat section flanked by a raised back edge and sight edge. It think it beautifully brings out her complexion and the golden highlights in her hair while the antique black panel balances the solid, dark form of her outfit. And matches the somber atmosphere of the sitting. What do you think?
So, this was my meeting with "Isabella".
It was very nice to meet her.
And I am happy to know that she does not have to live in a barn anymore.
In a splendid FRAME of mind, wishing you all a great weekend,
Outi, The Frame Dame