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The Conservation of Two Newly Rediscovered Paintings by Caravaggio (Conservation Matters lecture)

Date: Thursday, November 8, 2007
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Admission: Free; reservations required.

Learn how two paintings by Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) were recently rediscovered in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen of England. Rupert Featherstone, senior conservator for the Royal Collection Trust, explains how recent conservation of both paintings revealed new evidence that both are by the hand of Caravaggio, a master of light, shade, and emotional expression.

Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew / Caravaggio

About the Rediscovered Caravaggios
The first of the two paintings to be rediscovered in the Royal Collection was The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew. This work was owned by King Charles I, but already by his death in 1649 there was confusion about both the subject matter and the artist. Featherstone and his colleagues recently treated the painting, removing extensive layers of dirt, old varnish, and later repaint and an old and distorting lining. This work revealed technical features that confirm this picture as an original by Caravaggio rather than, as had been widely thought, a contemporary copy.

After this first stunning rediscovery, Featherstone and his colleages examined another apparent copy after Caravaggio in the Royal Collection, one of many known versions of A Boy Peeling Fruit, which was first recorded in the possession of King James II in the late 17th century. Some areas of paint on this work were abraded, a fact that had misled earlier observers. However, detailed examination in the conservation studio and a subsequent cleaning and conservation treatment revealed interesting technical features, as well as a skill and deftness of handling superior to all the other versions of the painting. This evidence confirmed the painting as the prime version of this composition, one of the earliest original works by Caravaggio, from around 1592–1593.

About Rupert Featherstone
Rupert Featherstone is senior conservator for the Royal Collection Trust, Windsor, United Kingdom. He was trained in conservation of easel paintings at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge. Featherstone has worked at the Royal Collection since 1985, conserving many of the 9,000 or so oil paintings held in the Royal Palaces and Residences throughout Britain. In 2002 he assumed the charge of the two Royal conservation studios as the Senior Conservator.

About Conservation Matters
Conservation Matters is a series of occasional lectures hosted by the Getty Conservation Institute examining conservation issues from around the world. This season, lectures focus on efforts to stop the looting of West African terracotta figures and professional museum techniques that can be used to protect valued personal possessions, among other topics.

A Boy Peeling Fruit / Caravaggio

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