Essay

Apolonius Veth 1644 By Cornelius Johnson

Rica Jones and Joyce H. Townsend

Read technical information about this painting resulting from examination and scientific analysis by conservators and conservation scientists at Tate

Fig.1 Cornelius Johnson 1593−1661 Apolonius Veth 1644 Oil paint on canvas

Fig.1
Cornelius Johnson 1593−1661
Apolonius Veth
1644
Oil paint on canvas
781 x 635 mm
N01320

This painting is in oil paint on canvas measuring 781 x 635 mm. The thick, linen canvas is plain woven (figs.2 and 3). Cusping on all four edges indicates that we have close to the original dimensions, although the original tacking edges are no longer present.1 The original canvas has many old, mended tears and holes in it; it is reinforced with a glue composition double lining, which was probably applied in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. The stretcher appears to be contemporary with the lining.

Fig.2 Detail of the sitter's right hand

Fig.2
Detail of the sitter's right hand

Fig.3 X-radiograph of Apolonius Veth

Fig.3
X-radiograph of Apolonius Veth

As in the companion portrait of the sitter’s wife, Cornelia Veth (Tate N01321), the ground consists of two layers followed by a priming (fig.4). The first coat, which was applied directly to the canvas, is bright opaque red; it is composed of red earth colour, chalk and red lake.2 This was covered over with a coat of opaque grey paint. The final priming coat is biscuit coloured.

Fig.4 Cross-section through the background, photographed at x320 magnification. From bottom to top it shows: red ground; grey ground; biscuit coloured ground; dark paint of the background

Fig.4
Cross-section through the background, photographed at x320 magnification. From bottom to top it shows: red ground; grey ground; biscuit coloured ground; dark paint of the background

Fig.5 The same cross-section as fig.4, photographed in ultra-violet light
Fig.5 The same cross-section as fig.4, photographed in ultra-violet light
Fig.6 Cross-section from the sitter’s cuff, photographed at x320 magnification. From bottom to top it shows: biscuit coloured ground (the two first layers of ground are fragmentary in this sample); dark grey paint; white paint of lace cuff; varnish

Fig.6
Cross-section from the sitter’s cuff, photographed at x320 magnification. From bottom to top it shows: biscuit coloured ground (the two first layers of ground are fragmentary in this sample); dark grey paint; white paint of lace cuff; varnish

Underdrawing is not apparent but there appears to be thin, sketchy dead colouring underneath the figure.3 The artist used bone black for the costume.

October 2003

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