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News Student Blog: Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis

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​Left: Cornelis de Heem, Fruit Still Life (c.1670) before treatment. (Photo: Ellen Nigro) Right: WUDPAC Fellow Ellen Nigro testing solvents for varnish removal. (Photo: Sabrina Meloni)

This year I am completing my internship at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands, and I couldn't be happier.  The Mauritshuis has one of the best collections of 17th century Dutch and Flemish painting in the world, including works such as Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp by Rembrandt, and The Goldfinch by Carl Fabritius.  This is a wonderful opportunity to study a collection of excellent quality in a beautiful setting.

My main project for the year will be to research and treat a painting by Cornelis de Heem, simply titled, Fruit Still Life. It is a wonderful example of a 17th-century fruit still life, featuring oranges and a partially peeled lemon piled onto a silver arranged on a stone plinth with overflowing with grapes, chestnuts, and acorns. A butterfly and a snail perch on a wheat stalks in the lower portion of the painting.

De Heem was a still life painter who worked in Antwerp, and he is one in a family of still life painters. His father, Jan Davidsz. de Heem was his teacher and the most successful artist in the family. Although no technical studies or treatment on Cornelis de Heem’s paintings have been published, a few have been published on his father’s works.  Since Jan Davidsz. de Heem taught Cornelis how to paint, the Mauritshuis still life could provide an interesting point of comparison to see the similarities and differences between the painting techniques of the father and son. Examination of the painting has shown that there is a thick, very yellow varnish on the surface. This is altering and sometimes obscuring many of the wonderful details in the composition.  Although the painting is still in the preliminary stages of treatment, it is exciting to think about how lovely the painting will look once it is free of the yellow varnish!

Ellen presenting a poster at ICOM-CC with Keara Teeter and Mina Porell. (Photo: Joyce Hill Stoner)

I cannot believe how busy my first month has been in the Europe. In addition to starting my internship, I had the opportunity to attend the ICOM-CC Triennial Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark where I helped present a poster on a cleaning experiment I did with my fellow paintings conservation classmates, Diana Hartman, Mina Porell, Kelsey Wingel, and Keara Teeter, along with our advisor, Richard Wolbers. The talks I attended at the conference were examples of incredible research, and I left the conference inspired to do more with my own projects.  Copenhagen is filled with wonderful museums I visited, including the Statens Museum for Kunst, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotekt, Rosenborg Castle, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art where I soaked up as much art in the Danish collections as possible.  In addition to visiting Copenhagen, I have had the opportunity to visit a few of the museums in The Hague and Amsterdam, including the Geementemuseum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk Museum. There is a wealth of art and culture around me this year, and I have only just scratched the surface!

Even though I’m only a fraction of the way through my third year, I can already tell this will be an incredible experience. The Netherlands has so much to offer, and I’m excited to see where my research and treatment take me.

— Ellen Nigro, WUDPAC Class of 2018

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2018 Fellow Ellen Nigro talks about her internship projects at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.

​In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2018 Fellow Ellen Nigro talks about her internship projects at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489