Technique and condition

The painting was executed in oil colours on a medium-weight linen canvas, attached to an expandable wooden stretcher. The most unusual feature of the painting's structure is that it contains no pigmented priming (or preparatory ) layer. The only preparation to the canvas before the application of the oil paint appears to have been a thin layer of unpigmented size, possibly rabbit skin glue.

The linen canvas shows through to the front in several areas of the painting, for example in the sitter's hands, eyes, his right ear and around the handkerchief in his breast pocket. It is likely that the canvas has discoloured slightly since the painting's execution, which would have darkened the overall appearance of the work.

The paint has been applied exclusively by brush and appears lean. When applied it would have been of fairly stiff consistency, thus capable of producing the very sharp nature of the low impasto visible in many areas (e.g. in the sitter's face). Where flat and thin areas of colour are present the paint would have been diluted down either with turpentine or a small amount of additional oil medium. The painting does not possess any varnish layer, which has the effect of adding to its overall dry appearance.

The painting is in overall excellent condition, with no indication of cracking or other paint damage. An area of efflorescence which had appeared in the background brown colour was removed. By chemical analysis, the brown paint was found to contain beeswax as well as the oil, which was presumably added to produce an even more paste-like paint.

The painting is signed and dated in the lower left corner, along the edge of the side-table. The frame is probably original and has been modified to improve the protection offered to the painting, primarily through the addition of glazing and a backboard.

Tom Learner
July 1997