Technique and condition

The picture is painted on one piece of fine, plain woven linen canvas. The canvas is stretched over a three-ply board. The unpainted 'tacking' margins are folded around the back of the board and stuck down with a water-soluble glue. This plywood panel, with its chamfered edges, was the backing board from a frame used by the artist for another work. The canvas appears originally to have been attached to another panel or stretcher. The present panel is a little larger than the painted face of the canvas, and there are vacant holes in the unpainted margins.

The canvas was prepared for painting with a thin layer of animal glue size applied to the stretched face. There is no pigmented ground. The composition was carefully drawn out in graphite pencil. The canvas had been prepared with a five inch pencilled grid with diagonals to assist in transferring the composition. It was painted in generally thinly applied colours, with a small soft-tipped brush. Some areas are very thinly painted, or not painted at all, utilising the colour of the sized canvas. The drawing remains clearly visible in all areas. More opaque colours are built up in several layers. The paint films appear moderately lean with a subtle 'eggshell' gloss, characteristic of polished egg tempera painting. Confirmation of the medium awaits analysis. It is described as 'tempera' in an inscription by the artist. The painting is not varnished.

On acquisition the painting was in a delicate and dirty condition. The plywood panel was badly warped and the face veneer was delaminating into a large blister. This was causing the canvas to distort badly. The canvas was also being degraded by acidic products migrating from the plywood. The whole surface of the painting exposed in the frame had accumulated and absorbed dirt. This has resulted in a general lowering of tone and loss of colour. The surface was also damaged by innumerable fine scratches, scuff marks and abrasions. Some of the leaner colours, such as the ochres, had developed very fine cracks and flaking, especially towards the edges. Despite the extent of the damage and changes in appearance, the image remains legible. The painting is currently undergoing treatment involving removal of the canvas from the panel, flattening and conservation of the original canvas and removal of the superficial surface dirt.

The frame is in poor condition with weak joints and extensive damage to the mouldings and surface finish.

Roy Perry
December 1997