Based on his initial examination and analysis, Isaac believes the painting may date from the 19th century; it has since undergone many restoration efforts, some more skillful than others. The restorations have resulted in some notable changes from the two 17th-century versions. The most striking example is Anne’s bosom, which in Rubens’s original portraits is exposed beneath a sheer fabric and square neckline. In the copy, the bodice now extends up to her neck ruff, covering all traces of skin. However, the x-radiograph of the copy reveals that this version once conformed more closely to the originals, showing evidence of a square neckline beneath layers of overpaint. While Isaac suspects this change likely happened when a restorer overpainted previous damages, the change may also have been made to conform to later, more modest tastes.
Isaac’s primary treatment goal is to stabilize the widespread network of actively lifting and tenuously attached areas of paint. To do this, he may have to slightly expand the canvas, which has shrunk over time likely due to exposure to elevated moisture levels. Once the painting is stabilized, Isaac will remove discolored varnish layers, reduce distracting areas of overpaint, and discuss with the owner about whether it might be possible or advisable to try to reveal the original appearance of Anne’s bodice. When Isaac’s treatment is complete, the painting will be returned to its owner, with Anne either still modestly covered or restored to her more revealing 17th-century dress.
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