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Friday, May 31 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Paintings) The Research and Conservation Treatment of Jar of Apricots/le bocal d’abricots, 1758 by Jean-Siméon Chardin

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Sandra Webster-Cook, Conservator of paintings, Art Gallery of Ontario; Lloyd De Witt, Curator of European Art, Art Gallery of Ontario; Kate Helwig, Senior Conservation Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute

This remarkable still-life by Chardin is one of the great masterpieces in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It is a rare oval by Chardin and is very significant as one of a pair presented by Chardin at the Salon of 1761. The companion painting, The Cut Melon is in a private collection. The research and conservation of the AGO painting was sponsored by the BNP Paribas Foundation.

The painting was generally in stable condition but suffered from at least two generations of harsh restoration treatment. There are drying cracks in many areas and extensive mechanical cracking of the paint layers which appears to be stabilized by an old glue lining. Restoration treatments of the damaged areas of the paint surface have altered the forms and colours of the original. The synthetic varnish (EVA co-polymer) had deteriorated and lost its transparency resulting in incomplete saturation of the dark colours especially.

Prior to treatment, non-invasive analysis of the painting was carried out by scientists from the Canadian Conservation Institute to document the artist’s materials and assist in the interpretation of early retouching in the consideration of their removal and separation from the original surface. Non-invasive Raman spectroscopy and x-ray fluorescence spectrometry provided information about the paint composition in many areas. Some samples were removed during the course of the treatment and analysed by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, polarized light microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectrometry to provide more detailed compositional information.

Following the initial phase of study, the painting was loaned to the Chardin exhibition in Ferrara and Madrid (2010-11). Examination of comparable works assisted in the understanding of Chardin’s materials and techniques and served as important reference material in the cleaning and reconstruction of damaged areas. The venues also permitted consultation with Chardin scholars.

The painting required a sensitive cleaning (removal of the synthetic varnish and removal of most of the old restoration retouchings). After the brush application of a stabilized natural resin dammar varnish, the abraded and damaged areas were reintegrated by retouching with B72 and dry pigments, in consultation with our Curator of European Art, Lloyd De Witt and in reference to similar works by the artist and accumulated research.

The lengthy and complex treatment has been very successful and has revealed unexpected colour. The painting has recovered a greater sense of depth, and more subtlety of colour and texture throughout. There is unity of tone, colour and form central to Chardin’s aesthetic. Chardin’s interest in the effects of light, transparency and reflection is clearly evident and the quiet beauty so characteristic of his work is recovered.


Kate Helwig

Kate Helwig has an honours B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University. She studied artifact conservation at Queen’s University and received a Master’s Degree in Art Conservation. Since 1992, she has... Read More →

Sandra Webster-Cook

Conservator of Paintings, Art Gallery of Ontario
Sandra Webster-Cook began university studies in an applied science program with an interest in textiles and design, but transferred early on, graduating in Honors Science with a Chemistry specialization. She was subsequently employed as a Research Chemist by the University of Guelph... Read More →

Friday May 31, 2013 10:30am - 11:00am EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom F 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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