The Executive Committee of The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) has awarded a total of €50,000 from TEFAF’s Museum Restoration Fund to support the distinct and complex restoration and conservation projects at the National Gallery, UK, and the Museum Volkenkunde, The Netherlands, for the benefit of future generations. At the National Gallery, the fund will support the restoration of the famous work ‘The Equestrian Portrait of Charles I’ by Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641), a powerful painting of the King.

my name is Larry Keith I'm head of the conservation department and I'd like to say a little bit about the treatment of Charles the first on horseback which you see on its side with the cleaning largely accomplished that treatment is being done by my colleague Paul Ackroyd he'll be talking about his work in detail but I want to say a few words about the larger context in which restoration like this takes place we always view a treatment like this as a chance to work collaboratively with our curatorial and scientific colleagues to find out as much as we can in the round about the circumstances and the techniques and the materials with which any given painting is made and so in the case of Van Dyck it's quite interesting to think about his use of a large canvas and the way he actually created a big picture the way he might have worked with assistants or not that the use of the ground all these kinds of things we'll be exploring in detail the levels that finish all these things we can look at technique in materials and they can speak to some interesting larger questions that I think are relevant to this picture and our understanding of how we worked in England in general my name is Bart Cornelius I'm the curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings here at the National Gallery and we're here in front of this large question portrait by Anthony Van Dyck which is currently being restored it is one of the largest paintings in the gallery and explains why it has to go on its side because it's really too large to two to work on it if you have it you know upright was painted by Antony from Bank who in 1632 was a pointed court painter to Charles the first and this is one of those Porter's that he made during his about a long time period spent here in in England it is one of only two equestrian portraits by Anthony Van Dyck and it's it's really exciting to have it here in the studio because one of the advantages of having it on its site is actually you can see just how it's painted in the upper part of the of the canvas which normally is high up and you just realize how quickly he's painted certain passages it always strikes me how economical 17th century Dutch or Flemish painters are in that they they want to do things quickly if they can because you know up there no one's going to look very closely anyway and there's a marvelous of bravuria and the brushwork in the end the upper part and of course it's also very exciting west from dike is well he's that the artist who brought such a breath of fresh air to painting at the court in England certain well swagger as we now call it and perhaps even a certain poetry is added to to these to these portraits and hence he was the most successful portrait painter really offers day certainly here and certainly on a par with with other artists who brought something similar to portrait paintings such as you know France halls Velasquez Bernini in sculpture Rembrandt of course so we're very excited that this is now being treated and will eventually go back on this play of course where we have it in on a long Vista all the way opposite another question portrait by Rembrandt I'm Paul Ackroyd I'm one of the conservators in working here at the National Gallery and I've been working on the Christian portrait of Charles first by Van Dyck I should say something about the conservation history of this what the painting has been through it was sold in 1650 by Cromwell at the Commonwealth sale after Charles's death and from there it traveled to Flanders and then on to Bavaria and then came back to this country in about seventeen hundred and six the painting was acquired by the gallery in 1885 and from then very little happened to it in terms of its restoration it was really just given a sort of light surface cleaning to remove some surface grime and dirt and then revarnished and that happened over several occasions from 1885 right up until 1952 when the painting was last fully cleaned and restored considering what the painting has been through it is in really quite remarkable condition there aren't that many actual losses full-scale losses there are a few isolated ones like these here and there are of course losses across this join here because Van Dyck painted the painting on two pieces of canvas that were sewn together and this is the so enjoy in here but really it is in pretty good a pretty good state there is a certain amount of abrasion of the paint that's happened in previous cleanings previous to 1952 probably in the 18th and 19th centuries there is one notable sort of damage up in this corner here where you see a circular area here where the paint is being worn down really right down to the canvas almost and I think what's happened there is that they've mistaken a change that Van Dyck made you can see some sort of a darker patch there where there is some evidence where VanDyke had originally intended some leaves put some leaves in of the trees that extended over where that cloud is now then changed his mind and painted the cloud over those trees and it over time that change has become more apparent and the restorers come along and thought that a lot of that cloud paint was over paint and taken that off in their area and then suddenly stopped when he realized that he was actually taking original some of the original paint off and you could again see here where there's there's these there's an area here sort of slightly dark area here where Van Dyck had originally put in some leaves similar to these here and then changed his mind and painted that dark cloud over the top and there is a certain amount of abrasion in this foreground here and in the landscape just underneath those trees is quite a large area of abrasion but really the actual horse and the portrait of Charles in his armor is in remarkably good condition the reason why we decided to clean this painting now even though the painting had been last restored in 1952 is because of the materials that were used at that time had begun to discolor the retouching has have been done in ordinary artist oil paint and they had discolored quite markedly particularly the area of restoration in that blue sky the color had gone yellow and brown which had given it a rather muddy looking sort of colour rather than that beautiful vivid blue of the ultramarine and also the varnish that was used at that time which was a mastic varnish a natural resin varnish with some oil in it had also discolored to quite a degree and then actually not just discolored but had also gone quite milky quite foggy so the in these dark areas you lost a lot of definition in the shapes and forms so during the cleaning I've I've been using as we do with all paintings cleaning old paintings here we use sort of cotton wool swabs with organic solvents to remove the varnish and the old over paint and at times we have had to engage the scientific department to look at areas of possible over paint I mean there was some very old over paint in this area of this sleeve here of the page which had covered up a little bit of abrasion and that had to be looked at to see what was original and what wasn't the cleaning process has probably taken something like five to six months thus far there is a some more cleaning to come but that the cleaning process is pretty much finished the retouching will take a great deal longer it will probably take about sort of a year to eighteen months the big areas of damage like the sky the loss of the ultramarine blue in the sky does not present a huge amount of difficulty in in reconstruction there are certain areas such as that area of where in the landscape which is a bit more difficult to decide what to do in that sort of area in terms of retouching but that we can make reference to the sketch for this picture which is in the Royal Collection and refer to that and some of the planes in the foreground will need a bit more definition during the retouching and there is some abrasion here in the horse's tail but there aren't any you know really large areas that require reconstruction the areas such as these leaves here which look quite blue probably had a yellow lake mixed in with the blue paint which would have made it look a lot greener but that yellow lake has faded and left those those plants looking quite blue and there is this area here of Charles's thigh which we can't really decide whether this area was ever really properly finished there is as you can see this this shape of this thighs rather thin and there is an area of little piece of armor here at the side of the knee which is very sketchily indicated there doesn't look like there's being an awful lot of abrasion of the black and dark paint in that area there may be some but it doesn't really explain why that area you know doesn't really work as a finished piece of painting and we're not quite sure what this blue sort of highlight is here whether that's just a sort of fold in the cloth where this this cloth had some kind of satin as satin like fabric which had a sheen to it or not but again I mean referring to the sketch of the painting in the Queen's collection will help to resolve that area when we come to do the restoration there

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