George Puleston (?) c.1625–30 by John Souch

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

This painting is in oil paint on canvas measuring 770 x 640 mm (figs.1–4). The linen canvas has a loose, plain weave with a thread count of 14 vertical and 13 horizontal picks per square centimetre. As can be seen from the X-radiograph and the infrared reflectogram (figs.5–6), its original tacking edges are now incorporated into the picture plane. The original dimensions of the painting were approximately 750 mm x 600 mm. The old tacking edges are held in plane by a glue-paste lining, which probably dates from the first half of the twentieth century. The adjustable, pine stretcher appears to be contemporary with the lining.

The ground is fawn colour and has a fairly coarse texture (figs.7–8). It is composed of lead white, Cologne earth and chalk.1 There is no priming. No underdrawing was detected with infrared reflectography (fig.6) but the clearly defined reserves for each component of the composition indicate careful planning.

A reserve was left in the flesh paint for the finger ring (fig.9). The fawn coloured priming layer is just visible as a warm mid-tone in the sitter’s face, for example the eye sockets (figs.10–11). The artist followed this with loaded highlights and thin transparent glazes in the shadows. The eyes have reserves left for each component, rather than adding the pupils over the iris in turn over the whites. There is also a distinctive flash of red at the corner of each eye, made by glazing red lake on top of opaque red paint.

The costume and background are composed mainly of opaque colours worked together wet-in-wet in one layer with details such as the decorative details and highlights laid in on top (figs.12–15).

The painting is signed in the lower right corner (fig.16).

 Fig.16 Detail of the signature

Detail of the signature

May 2005