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Dutch Girl – conclusion

I am still working on the 17th century Dutch painting of a girl. Few days ago, I examined the panel painting under the ultraviolet (UV) light and I saw that the left side of the background fluoresced, which usually means previous restoration. It looked like somebody repainted the background. But the science of UV examination is imperfect, some dark pigments especially, do appear to fluoresce even though the light pigments of the same age do not. It is therefore quite challenging to know with certainty the amount of previous restoration solely based on observation under the UV light. Stephen always says, the best method to judge the condition of a painting is to take it outside and look at it under full sun. Now, you also have to know what to look for, but he swears that a human eye still beats the modern technology.

 In this case, what gave the painting away was the unicolored background. 17th century paintings were as realistic as photographs and the painters paid great attention to all aspects of the composition detail.  So if all was kosher with mu Dutch girl, she would have a background that would be a part of her daily life, that would make sense for the girl. She is dressed for the outside, there should be a landscape in her background. Or her dog. Anything but the black smudge.

 As I clean off the background, I find and eye, then a nose. I am convinced it was a mad dog at first – for some reason the old masters had either trouble with painting realistic animals, or painted them from the (not so good) memory. If you look at any Bosch painting with animals in it, you will get the picture. (I should think this fact also deserves a separate blog post .)

There are two sheep in the background in the end. One and a half, I should say, since somebody, most likely that crafty restorer who made the beautiful wooden cradle to prevent the painting from warping and splitting saw off the left edge of the painting, since the second sheep is missing a head. Did he cut off 5 inches? 10? We will never know. We will never know why he did it. Was the edge damaged beyond reasonable repair? Was it as simple as fitting the painting in a nicer frame that just happened to be 5 inches narrower? I wish I could know,  I wish it was possible to find the old wooden piece, somewhere, somehow and glue it back together to turn the poor two legged decapitated beast into a lovely sheep it used to be.

The owner decided to keep the headless sheep in the painting. I touched up the scratches, worm holes and missing paint chips. So there you go, Mr. Hendrick Van Der Fliet, I am not sure what would you say if you saw your painting now, I am just hoping you are not turning in your grave too much.

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