Madonna and Child

This painting illustrates a complicated cleaning and subsequent restoration of a Madonna and Child painted by Jan Harmensz Müller (Dutch, 1571-1628). It is the property of a private collector.

This painting was painted in oil on an oak panel. Although the panel and original paint were in excellent condition, it was clear that the whole background had been painted over with a very thick cracked black paint. It was unclear why this had been done but it had been carried out some time ago.

It appeared that the overpaint had been subject to several attempts at removal, however this had obviously posed problems for previous restorers as it was brought to the studio in a partially cleaned state.

Treatment of the painting consisted of, first, analysis of the overpaint in order to devise a cleaning method. This indicated that the black layer was bound with casein which dries to an extremely hard film. Specific enzymes were then employed to remove the overpaint.

As this was removed, a number of architectural features were revealed in the background. The painting was then carefully retouched to minimise the impact of the damages and losses which had occurred over the painting’s lifetime. These can be seen in the illustrations. This extent of old damage is common for paintings of this age.

Ultraviolet image of face detail after restoration

UV Images

This ultraviolet image of the painting shows the retouching as a black area. In this way it is always possible to discern which areas of the painting are original and which have been retouched.