The Restoration of ‘A Fête at Bermondsey’ by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (1520-1590)
‘A Fête at Bermondsey’, oil on panel, 29 x 40 inches (73.8 x 99 cm). Previously attributed to Joris Hoefnagel.
Treatment for this painting focused on consolidating areas of elevated craquelure, and integrating areas of wear through retouching to reunify the overall painting. The restoration was carried out for an English public collection, in collaboration with a research project on the attribution of the painting.
Notes on Condition (before treatment)
The panel was structurally in fair condition, though the board joins had been opened and re-joined in the past. There were small, scattered losses to the paint and ground layers associated with the joins. The paint layers also had a very fine brittle-age craquelure that was elevated in various places across the painting. Overall, the paint layers were in good condition, though the old campaigns of retouching had darkened and were unnecessarily painterly. The varnish was also appreciably discoloured and yellow, obscuring the paint layers beneath.
Treatment Carried Out
The painting was first surface cleaned to remove a thin layer of particulate dirt. Two layers of old, discoloured varnish were individually removed, followed by removing the separate campaigns of retouching (including two older campaigns of old well-bound oil overpaint) and associated old fillings. Areas of lifting paint were present across the whole panel; these were also consolidated systematically to secure the paint film back in plane.
Extensive technical analysis was carried out, including technical photography and taking cross-sections, to examine the artist’s working process and the layer structure of the painting. Part of this examination involved close study of the artist’s signature, which had previously been largely obscured by the old campaigns of restoration. This technical examination was carried out in conjunction with Edward Town’s research on the re-attribution of the painting.
Once the old losses had been filled and textured to match the surrounding paint layers, the areas of loss and abrasion were retouched to a very high level, so as to remain consistent with the meticulous detail of the artist’s original work. Several spray coats of a natural resin varnish were necessary to fully saturate the paint layers and modify the surface gloss.
The painting’s frame was restored, before refitting the painting with a new build-up and backboard.