The first task involved the removal of the secondary lining canvas that had been fixed to the reverse of the original support by a restorer over 150 years ago. A new canvas was prepared then attached using a modern, synthetic adhesive rather than the water-based one used previously.
Removal of the discoloured varnish inevitably resulted in a dramatic improvement in the painting’s appearance. Also likely to date from the middle of the nineteenth century, this varnish was not an original layer but one applied by an earlier restorer.
As the degraded layer was removed with mild mixtures of organic solvents, so too were areas of previous restoration. A thin, isolating layer of varnish was then applied prior to the retouching of minor areas of damage and abrasion in the paint film. In this case, despite its considerable age, the paint layers were found to be in very good condition indeed. Only the Virgin’s blue mantle appeared to be especially worn, possibly damaged at the hands of a previous restorer.
Retouching of loss was carried out using dry pigments ground by hand in a synthetic, specially devised resin. In common with all aspects of conservation, this process is designed to be reversible and, although applied in a manner to be largely invisible, in the future the recent retouching can be easily removed from the original. The treatment was completed by a thin, sprayed layer of protective varnish.