Technique and condition

Masson’s Still Life with a Mandolin was painted on a single piece of medium-weight linen canvas. The support has been subsequently glued onto a secondary linen lining canvas, probably with animal glue. The two pieces of fabric are attached to a four-membered expandable stretcher with ferrous tacks at the edges. The stretcher maybe original. The support is in a good condition although there is a slight damage to the rear of the left stretcher bar, where the outer part of the wood appears to have collapsed into a tunnel. This area runs for approximately 90 mm along the grain of the wood.

There maybe some tears in the support and thus why it has been lined. There are certainly two strips of retouching, which may be covering damages to the fabric. The largest tear is located 195 mm from the top and 130-190 mm from the left edge and a smaller one is visible at 105 mm from the top and 210-230 mm from the left. There are also a previous set of tacking holes visible around the edges and two additional holes are seen on the face of the painting at the top edge, 120 and 330 mm from left.

The ground preparation is obscured by a pigmented ground above and the lining canvas beneath. It appears to consist of a commercial oil priming of 1-2 thin layers. The canvas weave is still very evident. The paint appears primarily matt but its appearance was obscured by the thick, glossy varnish. The paint is vehicular but varies in its consistency from a paste to very lean paint. It was applied with a brush in a varied manner. Many areas are extremely thin, the mandolin for example, whilst there is some appreciable impasto in the details of the flowers and the dead bird.

There is some abrasion to the ground in the two main areas of paint loss and at all four corners. These abrasions have been retouched obscuring the extent of paint loss. This retouching now appears significantly whiter than the surrounding area. It lies above the varnish layer and will be removed during varnish removal. The varnish layer is possibly the original and is now extremely yellowed and thus very visually disturbing. There is also a thick layer of household dust over the varnish, which renders the painting rather dull and grey.