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Question asked 2017-01-20 11:09:48 ...
Most recent comment 2017-01-20 11:33:00
Art Conservation Topics
Technical Art History
I have the good fortune to have acquired an 18th century British family portrait. The painting has an inscription that dates it to 1754. I am taking X-sections in hopes to study the layer structure, pigments and possibly help with an artist attribution. The work is unsigned but similar to other works by Arthur Devis a British portrait painter who was active in London at the right time. As I rarely work on paintings that are not American 19th century works I welcome any advice or insight. I do have sampling opportunities in many different colors in the painting (according to areas of loss).
Thank you in advance
Answers and Comments
The painting falls in a time and place that we are less accustomed to as well. Additionally, with the noted exception of Prussian blue, the proposed date is before the creation/adoption of a huge number of new pigments which would help with attribution, unless you find anachronistic pigments, which is a separate issue.
So in the absence of much experience,I would probably do an AATA search and scour through the available published studies on British paintings of that era. I always start with The National Gallery Technical Bulletin and this may provide something of interest: NGTB 12 Gainsborough's 'Dr Ralph Schomberg' by David Bomford, Ashok Roy and David Saunders. The following book may be of interest: Studying 19th-Century Paintings and Works of Art on Paper edited by Evans and Muir. It may be a good idea to skim through American Painters on Technique: The Colonial Period to 1860 by Mayer and Myers as many of the American practices originated in Britian. The following article may also be of interest: Bennett, Shelley M.New light on British paintings at the Huntington. The Burlington magazine 137, no. 1109 (1995), pp. 512-515 Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd., London, United Kingdom. It would not hurt to read through Paint and Purpose, A Study of Technique in British Art by Hackney et al. Gainsborough, J. Wright & and Reynolds are included.
I would probably also send a query to the conservators at The National Portrait Gallery in London. I know that they are gathering technical information about earlier Tudor and other portraits but they may also have relevant info about the period you are interested in. A quick look at their website reveals that they are conserving and documenting works by Romney. You could send a query to conservators at The Yale Center for British Art to see if they have any insight.
I am sure that there are many other references and resources out there but it really is not our area of expertise. I did sent an email to a few other conservators that may or may not have something to add here. Hopefully you will get some additional information.
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