The art restoration plan for this “undisplayable” painting | National Gallery

The art restoration plan for this “undisplayable” painting | National Gallery


Well, hi, I’m Larry Keith I’m the Head of Conservation and Keeper at the National Gallery and I’m here to talk to you about a really wonderful and interesting conservation project we’re beginning on this painting, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac’ by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. He was a painter active in Venice throughout most of the first half of the 18th century. He was known to be a rather slow worker, and in that context this picture is really really interesting. It has a fascinating conservation history, and the picture itself is unusual in the Gallery collection, because as you can see, it’s substantially unfinished. And I think the public find unfinished pictures – I certainly find them really thrilling because it’s almost like a cutaway view. You can see, you can almost smell the turpentine I like to think, in that you can really get a sense of process and and the kind of confidence and the skill in laying these compositions out. It’s quite thrilling to to really feel like you’re in the presence of an artwork being born. There areas such as Abraham’s head which are largely finished, and other areas are just blocked in just sketched in. You can even see the knife that he holds is barely indicated at all. You can see just looking loosely over the whole area, you’ll see lots of areas of discrete dark paint that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the work, and that is retouching from a restoration undertaken probably around a hundred years ago when the picture was owned by a man called Roger Fry. It seems clear that he’s responsible for this restoration. You’d expect someone so keen on post-impressionism and the kind of independent life of the brushstroke, kind of almost separate from narrative and content would be a kind of guy who’d be pretty comfortable with the bold and rather unresolved painting style of this painting. Why he would have done this, done these very large restorations is itself, you know, something we’ll be kind of questioning and looking into as we go ahead with the treatment. As part of the treatment itself we do non-destructive imagings. In this case that imaging has brought some other exciting new discoveries This is two unfinished paintings effectively one on top of another. You can start to see underneath another figure entirely Here’s a man standing, and there is what looks to be a bishop based on the cope he’s wearing and the hand extended and someone kneeling here as if he’s giving some kind of blessing or benediction. I’ve made a few small tests to start off with to give an indication of how discolored the varnish is. The picture itself is largely warm colors So we expect you know, it’s not going to make a huge shift in color and tonality from the cleaning, but we’ll get a lot of clarity in terms of enhancing saturation of the darks. And the main thing we’ll be looking to get from this restoration is to get more clarity about Piazzetta’s brushwork by the removal of these old retouchings. Now the restorations have discoloured so markedly that the picture is undisplayable in its present states and the restoration will bring something back that we will enjoy seeing and we can’t see now. If you’d like to know more about our paintings you can click here or here. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you again next time.

Dereck Turner

12 thoughts on “The art restoration plan for this “undisplayable” painting | National Gallery

  1. Infernal Capricorn says:

    Post lots of updates with the restoration! I love the way restoration brings paintings back to life.

  2. viergenoire says:

    Wonderful presentation.

  3. Paul Tudor says:

    Wish there was more content.

  4. Alina B. says:

    I thought you’d show the restauration or at least the result…

  5. OneEyedPhotographer says:

    It would be interesting to have students take that as their starting point to create finished works.

    Surely it would be highly educational.

  6. PeterPaul175 says:

    This is more of what I expect from the National Gallery. It is information that is useful, and not the politically correct misinformation presented by a lot of its other videos.

  7. Peter Harrison says:

    Even a thumbnail sketch by Piazzetta is exciting, so this is a great opportunity to look in detail at his technique. Avanti!

  8. Aoi Q says:

    Very nice video, I'd love to see a full exhibition of the painting process incliding unfinished works. Thanks for the videos :))

  9. dirty pure says:

    Very interesting, I'm rather unenlightened on the topic of painting restoration so I welcome more videos such as this one. Thank you.

  10. Heather Mackelden says:

    Very interesting!

  11. Sam Rin says:

    can’t wait to see the restored painting. thank you for sharing

  12. catsintexas says:

    wow. its not enough that these old artists were great. they were also intelligent and skilled. And they had patience and hid some of their art.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *