Museum Home Research and Conservation An In-Depth Look at Conservation Partnerships Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden

 

As part of the Getty Museum's ongoing commitment to conservation partnerships, the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden, Germany, and the Museum's Conservation Department undertook cooperative study and treatment of Andrea Mantegna's remarkable painting Holy Family. This inventive and touching devotional work, painted around 1485, is considered one of Mantegna's masterpieces and a highlight of the exceptional Dresden collection. This is the first time that Holy Family had left its home institution in more than a century. Christoph Schölzel, a conservator from the Old Masters Picture Gallery, worked with the Museum's paintings conservation department for more than three months on the restoration project.

 

 

Holy Family depicts the Madonna and Christ Child, as well as the infant St. John the Baptist and two other figures thought to be St. Elizabeth, John's mother, and St. Joseph. Conservators originally presumed that Mantegna executed this painting in a water-based technique called tüchlein, however, careful analysis revealed that the Holy Family is actually a tempera and oil-based painting. When the painting arrived at the Museum, it was buried beneath many layers of severely discolored varnish. After removal of the obscuring varnish, it was discovered that the faces of the Madonna and Christ Child, as well as the Madonna's blue cloak, had been heavily repainted, all of which severely affected the painting's appearance. Further cleaning was undertaken to remove this overpainting, though conservators were careful to cease cleaning when they felt that no improvements could come from further paint removal. Schölzel then began painstakingly matching paint colors and retouching areas of loss, gradually returning the painting to a re-unified state.

 
 

The partnership with the Old Masters Picture Gallery is one of several cooperative arrangements between the Museum's Paintings Conservation department and other institutions. These partnerships allow major works of art from outside of the Getty to be treated free-of-charge and exhibited in the Museum's galleries. During the past nine years the Museum has conserved more than 80 works from other collections, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and the Picture Gallery of the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.

The treatment of Holy Family was supported by generous assistance from The Friends of Heritage Preservation, a group of Los Angeles residents interested in conserving works of art.