TITLE: In the Widmerpool Country
Oil on canvas (lined)
Framed in a gilded wooden frame with corner embellishments and inscription
Signed bottom centre left finely in black â€˜1825â€™
The painting was examined along with its pendant â€˜The Melton Hunt: The Brook under Tilton on the Hillâ€™ which was undergoing treatment. Microscopic examination revealed interesting features of the artistâ€™s technique, as well as details regarding the condition of the painting.
The canvas is stretched to a five member wooden stretcher with one vertical cross member. The stretcher has several scuffs and scratches. The keys of the central cross bar are missing but the tension of the canvas is not compromised. There is a fair amount of dust and debris at the reverse and behind the stretcher bars. Labels on the stretcher are photographically documented.
The painting has been glue paste lined with the original tacking margins removed. The original canvas is a tight, medium-fine weave. The lining canvas is a fine weave linen canvas, attached to the stretcher with tacks that have become somewhat degraded and rusty, with some degradation of the canvas around some of the tack holes. The reverse and edges of the canvas have a thickish layer of grey dirt. A vertical weave interference is clearly visible in a raking light.
There is an even biscuit-coloured ground layer. This is visible through the paint layers due to the painting technique both at spaces between the brushstrokes and through areas of thinner paint, as well as along the top edge.
The paint layers have been finely and deftly applied with visible brushstrokes and with a wet-into-wet technique in the details of the horses, figures and dogs. There is a slight impasto to the detail of the paint. There are some areas of drying craquelure such as along the horizon, in some of the foliage, and in the dark glaze-rich paint of the foreground.
Microscopic examination reveals details of the artistâ€™s technique, such as feathering of the brushstrokes to produce fine detailed effects in for example a horseâ€™s eye. It can also be seen that a certain paint used for detailing of the reigns and crops has resisted on the surface, suggesting this was applied after drying of the underlayer. Traditional techniques of buildup of layers in for example the red drapery with the use of vermilion underlayers and a red lake glaze is also clearly evident.
There are pentimenti in the positioning of the branches of the trees.
There is some abrasion to the paint from earlier cleaning. There is scuffing along the edges from framing. There has been some moating of the impasto as a result of the lining. There is a small recent damage to the varnish and paint layers in the centre sky.
There is a fairly discoloured layer of natural resin varnish which is uneven resulting in some areas being more obscured by the yellow discolouration than others. This is also thicker in the foreground than in the sky due to uneven removal in the past. Under ultraviolet light the varnish fluoresces greenish and the unevennesses are visible as large swipes due to application or thinning of the resin.
There is a light layer of yellow-brown surface dirt.
- The painting was examined and documented using digital photography; normal, raking and ultraviolet light; and the stereo binocular microscope.
- The painting was taken out of its frame.
- The reverse of the painting was dusted and any debris behind the stretcher bars was removed using a spatula.
- The reverse of the canvas was cleaned using a bristle brush and a vacuum cleaner.
- The missing and broken keys were replaced with new wooden keys stained to match.
- The painting was gently keyed out to improve and tension of the canvas and the picture plane.
- The area of lifting and raised craquelure was consolidated using Isinglass circa 8% applied through acid free tissue and the area massaged with a low heat circa 40 C until the raised paint was relaxed and could be glued back down.
- The painting was surface cleaned with saliva which removed a layer of yellow-brown surface dirt.
- The varnish removal was carried out using a 3:1 mixture of ethyl alcohol and mineral turpentine. This allowed for an even swelling of the varnish layer which was then removed with the swab and a tissue.
- An isolating varnish of dammar semi (3 parts stock: 1 part matt) was applied by brushing.
- Areas of loss were filled with a chalk and gelatine putty plasticised with a drop of PVA, and textured with a liquid version of the same putty to match the surrounding area.
- The areas of loss were retouched using dry pigments bound in dammar. Additional retouching was carried out to areas of abrasion. It was unclear as to why the two riders and the hounds below the horizon left had been overpainted. Since the decision was made not to remove the overrpaint however, it was decided to retouch these areas to a level which still allowed the the existence of the riders to remain evident.
- A final varnish layer was applied by spraying to even out the surface and adjust surface gloss.
- The frame rebate was lined with felt tape and the painting reframed.