Technique and condition

The painting is on a fine, twill-woven, linen canvas which measures 710 x 915mm. It is unlined and on its original stretcher, a plain pine rectangle with adjustable, square, mortise and tenon joints. The stretcher bars are 60mm wide and 20mm thick and they have a bevel on the inner front edge. The canvas itself is still quite supple, though it is showing signs of weakness at some of the tacking points. It is somewhat buckled at the corners and on the turnover edges. The ground is a thin layer of light stone-coloured paint, applied smoothly without texture; a few slightly knobbly areas may relate to later treatments. It is present over the whole stretched front of the canvas and goes over onto the tacking margins, though not for their full width. There appears to be a thin, translucent wash of golden brown paint on top of the ground, though this may have been the artist's first laying-in of the composition.

The painting has been repaired with patches on the back on two occasions: the first treatment looks very old and consists of nine small patches of a coarse, felted material stuck down with what appears to be brown paint. The damages they reinforce are small; only one is easily visible from the front, a filling about 8mm diameter next to the oval picture to the left of the organ. The second treatment looks recent and is a patch of canvas about 170mm by 80mm, stuck down with wax-resin adhesive. It supports a v-shaped tear, which has been well restored at the front.

Apart from these damages, the painting is in good condition. Adhesion of the paint and ground to the support is adequate, only a small area near the lower right corner showing signs of past weakness, which has since been treated. Abrasion of paint is minor and confined to thin dark areas. The varnish is a clear, synthetic resin, probably PVOH since it swells readily in water. It is a little patchy but does not need treatment.

The technique of painting is graphic in quality. There are traces of fine, precise drawing lines beneath the paint. The oil paint is largely smooth and opaque, and was applied wet-in-wet. The artist allowed the golden-brown underlayer to work unaided in the dark shadows throughout the composition, though not for the shadows in the flesh-tones, which were done in semi-opaque paint. All the outlines were strengthened by the artist in black or brown paint once the colour had dried. There are pentimenti in the lower left foreground above the mound of song-sheets.

Rica Jones
August 2000