A second-hand store for household goods is an unlikely place to find a 17th-century Italian painting, but that is exactly what College of William and Mary art history professor Miles Chappell thought he’d found when he spotted a framed painting so darkened with grime and old resins that it was difficult to see the unsigned landscape scene painted below. Chappell, a specialist in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, purchased the painting and later sought a full technical examination and conservation treatment from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) to test his theory.
This fall, the painting, which shows a house, people, animals, and a river, became a treatment project for WUDPAC Fellow Jennifer Myers following completion of a condition report and treatment proposal by her classmate, WUDPAC Fellow Yan Ling Choi. Yan believed the frame was not original and found evidence of earlier attempts to restore the painting. Visiting expert Dr. Melanie Gifford found Prussian blue pigment in the sky which could contradict Chappell’s hope that the painting was created by an Italian artist influenced by the Bolognese circle of artists including Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675), and Claude Lorrain (1604-1682). Prussian blue was not available until the 18th century, but the painting does appear to have been carried out in the Classical Italian landscape tradition.