Technique and condition

This oil painting is on a piece of plainly woven linen canvas with 10 threads per centimetre in both weave directions. Some time in the late twentieth century it was lined with wax-resin adhesive onto a very heavily woven, bast-fibre canvas, the back of which is painted with aluminium paint. The lining is reinforced at three corners with extra strips of canvas, presumably because of the force exerted by the stretcher. This is a modern type probably fitted in the United States of America. It is composed of four outer bars of stained pine with mitred corners. Each inner corner if fitted with a grey metal spring mechanism, and a horizontal metal rod across the middle of the painting is attached to inner edge of the pine bars with similar springing. This means that the painting is held under constant tension.

The ground is a thin, smooth, white preparation which extends onto the tacking edges. The figure appears to have been laid in with thin, sketchy brown paint. The visible paint varies in thickness and application. On the figure it is thick, creamy and copious, applied with bold flowing brushwork in the drapery and small overlapping dabs in the face. In the dark background it is thinner and leaner and was applied in rhythmical scumbles. Some parts of the background have developed minor drying cracks. The varnish is modern.

All the paint is in good condition except for an unusual defect which probably stems from the method of painting; some areas have developed sharp, raised cracks which have been held in this position by the lining. The whole figure has been affected except for the bodice and parts of the skirt. The presence of cracks just beyond the outlines of the figure indicates that adjustment of the pose and likeness during painting is the origin of the problem. Examination in raking light reveals the marks made by the original stretcher, a four-part rectangle supported by a vertical and horizontal cross bar. The horizontal bar is not central, but there is no evidence that the painting has been enlarged in one direction, which might explain this odd position.

Rica Jones
August 2000