Portrait of Shakespeare

  • Artist unknown, 17th century
  • Oil on wood panel|Private collection, New York City

Restoration of Painting on wood: Treatment of Cracked and lifted paint

    • Portrait of Shakespeare - Before
    • 1. Painting before restoration. When the painting arrived to the conservation studio, a thick layer of dust covered everything. The frame was loose and broken with a chipped corner. The painting’s condition was even more serious.

    • Portrait of Shakespeare - Before
    • 2. Painting before restoration. (After being removed from the frame). Prolonged exposure to a dry and dusty environment has caused the wooden panel to shrink, which then caused the paint and ground layers to crack and sporadically flake off.

    • Portrait of Shakespeare - Detail
    • 3. Detail of the head before restoration. “Tenting” is a type of cleavage when paint and ground layers are forced upward in a tent shape. Here, the tenting is especially visible on the right side of the face.

    • Portrait of Shakespeare - Process
    • 4. Painting during restoration. The cracked and lifted paint and ground layers were relaxed by using humidity and pressure. A liquid adhesive was introduced to secure the bond between those layers and the wood panel. New white gesso fillings were applied where the ground layer was missing. Surface dirt was removed.

    • Portrait of Shakespeare - After
    • 5. Painting after restoration. The missing and abraded paint layer has been retouched. A coat of varnish was applied over the entire surface.

    • Portrait of Shakespeare - After(Detail)
    • 6. After painting restoration (detail). The painting went through several restorations during its long history. The old retouchings and fillings were skillfully done and did not need to be removed during this restoration. Moreover, they are contributing to the painting’s patina.