Following nearly one year of conservation treatment, an Italian masterwork discovered in the Denver Art Museum storage is on view. Since spring 2012, we have been writing updates about behind-the-scenes discoveries and decisions related to the restoration.
In November 2011, the DAM was awarded a grant from The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) Foundation to restore a painting in its collection that had recently been attributed to 18th century Venetian painter Giovanni Antonio Canal, called il Canaletto.
The painting, Venice: The Molo from the Bacino di S. Marco, was bequeathed to the DAM by Charles Edwin M. Stanton and accessioned into the collection in 2009. Prior to Mr. Stanton’s purchase of the work in London, the provenance of the painting is not known. It is not recorded in any catalogues as a work by Canaletto. Research led Canaletto scholar Charles Beddington to accept the work as an early work by the painter.
Also part of the TEFAF was the conservation of the painting’s frame. The frame is "period," meaning stylistically it is of similar age as that of the painting, but not original to our Canaletto. This is not surprising since frames, historically, were not really perceived as works of art themselves and, indeed, the idea of placing a higher value on the “package” of both the painting and its original frame is a relatively new concept. Our frame is constructed of wood with hand-carved elements originally gilded using water and oil gilding techniques. More
The idea of reversibility is a very important concept in modern conservation practice. I chose materials with good and known aging characteristics, understanding that my work may need to be removed and/or redone, in the future. It is important that my conservation treatments are reversible. I know that the adhesive I chose to bond the original and lining canvases could be separated in the future and will not cause further harm to the artwork. More
Now that I’ve reduced the distracting bumps caused by the previous lining adhesive, I must now re-line the picture to another auxiliary canvas support. I was hoping not to have to re-line the picture, but it was not possible to locally mend the tear since the fibers along the tear edges were too frayed and weak. More
It’s now time to move onto the structural phase of the conservation treatment for the Canaletto work. Structural work entails further securing of any loose media, such as paint or ground, and any repairs if necessary to the canvas and stretcher. Our Canaletto was lined in the past, which means that the original canvas was adhered to a secondary canvas. There are a variety of reasons historically why paintings were lined, but in the case of the Canaletto it was most likely due to the tear in the original canvas. More