Technique and condition

The work consists of two separate paintings which are hung seven inches apart. Each painting was executed on a single piece of coarse linen fabric which is attached to a five-membered stretcher with ferrous tacks along its rear edges. Although both the stretchers were originally of the expandable type, they have been made rigid by the addition of two reinforcing battens which run horizontally and equidistant from the middle and outer stretcher bars. The canvas was prepared with one or two layers of a white oil-based primer over the stretched face of the canvas, which was probably preceeded by an initial application of animal glue size. The total priming is sufficiently thin for the canvas weave texture to be very apparent through it. A narrow strip of animal glue size was also applied to the very ends of the canvas at the vertical turnover edges, presumably to keep these flat against the rear face of the stretcher bars.

The paint is thought to be oil and has the vehicular and paste-like consistency that is characteristic of paint used straight from the tube, although in some of the thinner areas the paint was possibly diluted slightly. It appears to have been applied exclusively by brush. Although no preparatory drawing is visible, there are some pencil markings visible on the rear turnover edges, which indicate that the canvas may have been squared-up after the pigmented priming had been applied. Typically the paint was applied in a rather loose manner, in multiple layers and using a variety of thicknesses. These range from very thin layers to some appreciable impasto, especially in the areas of spots of paint applied over the figures, which sometimes reach up to 5 mm in thickness. The paint is predominantly opaque and of a reasonably high gloss, although the surface gloss has possibly been evened up through the use of local applications of varnish.

The batten frames surrounding both paintings are original and consist of two battens of different depths which are glued to each other. All visible parts of the battens (from the front) were then covered with a dark stain, followed by random brush strokes of a gold metallic paint on their inside, outside and front edges. The paintings are in excellent condition, with the fabric and stretchers providing good support and the paint not showing any sign of deterioration. The protection given to the rears of the paintings was recently improved through the insertion of stretcher linings. Providing the correct precautions are taken when handling and transporting the paintings they should remain in their pristine state for a considerable time.

Tom Learner
November 1997