A telling clue is the monogram and date “EL 1835” that Keara uncovered when she removed a thick layer of dirt and grime from the lower left corner of the painting. While this does not prove that Leutze painted the portrait, he grew up in this country and is known to have studied art in Philadelphia in the mid-1830s before returning to Germany in 1840. The mark is also referenced in a typed label on the back of the painting and in documentation provided by the owner. This traces the painting’s provenance back through Philadelphia lawyer, philanthropist and art collector John Frederick Lewis (1860-1932), a discovery in the attic of “an old house at Second and Queen Streets” in Philadelphia. It also mentions conservation work done in the 1920s, something Keara was able to identify as she continued her own treatment.
Keara will complete her treatment by removing the old varnish from the painting’s surface, revarnishing with a reversible and saturating coat of low-molecular weight varnish and then inpainting areas of loss. She also plans to do pigment analysis to help determine if the materials and style of the painting correlate to the time period and work of Leutze. While Keara may not be able to determine if Leutze did, indeed, paint the portrait, her treatment will enhance its appearance and ensure that the painting, along with the mystery that surrounds it, can continue to be enjoyed by its owners.
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