While the other two paintings are thought to depict Richter’s sister Gisela and father, John Paul Richter (1847-1937), the Woman with a Book remains unidentified. The only hints lie in her style of dress, bobbed hair, and T-strap shoes, which suggest she was likely painted in the 1930s.
One of Amanda’s first steps was to remove as much grime as possible using dry sponges. This helped reveal a network of feathery, horizontal cracks riddled with pinpoint losses and lifting islands of thinly applied paint. Examination with ultraviolet light revealed that the artist used a working varnish, applying several layers of paint with varnish in between. This rules out the possibility of cleaning off the yellowing varnish because it would risk undercutting and removing original paint.
As Amanda works through these and other challenges in treating Woman with a Book, her goal is to make the painting harmonious with treatments already completed by previous WUDPAC Fellows on the other two Richter paintings. Woman with a Book has already been consolidated by carefully repositioning as many tiny flakes in the losses as possible and dripping adhesive into the cracks. Subsequent aqueous cleaning revealed that the scene is much brighter than previously thought. Soon it will be lined and placed on a custom-made stretcher before all three Richter paintings are returned to the Met.