Technique and condition

The painting was executed in oil paint on a very fine linen canvas, attached to a softwood strainer. The fabric was initially covered in a thin layer of an off-white oil primer, prior to stretching.

Most of the textures in the paint appear to have been created with just oil paints, without the addition of any further materials. In the glossier and less-textured areas, such as the green and light blue paints, further oil medium may have been added to the paints. These areas also exhibit some minor pin-holes in their surfaces. Conversely in the drier and more-textured areas, the oil was probably partially leached out before its application. The thicker passages have been built up with only a few thick layers of paint. In the highly textured purple paint in the centre of the composition, the addition of large quantities of gypsum (used as a filler to bulk out the paint even further) was detected by chemical analysis.

In addition to the oil paints, black sand and a dry blue pigment have been sprinkled over various areas of the background buff colour. The black sand has been found through analysis to consist of a mixture of sand (silicon dioxide) and chalk, and the dry blue pigment has been identified as pure (synthetic) ultramarine. There is no varnish.

There appears to be another painting, or at least the start of one, beneath the present image. Areas of bright red and grey/blue are visible underneath the background colour where small fragments have been lost and there are a number of textured brushstrokes in the lower left quarter which do not relate to the top image.

The painting is in satisfactory condition, although it should be viewed as an inherently fragile piece. The black sand and blue pigment are readily lost by any kind of physical contact and fairly severe cracks have started to appear in some of the thicker areas of paint, in particular those running diagonally across the lower right corner. The painting has been treated in the past to consolidate these vulnerable areas. The central areas of colour have all been surface cleaned and the original frame has been built up to allow for the inclusion of glazing and a backboard.

Tom Learner
July 1997