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Conservation and Restoration interventions on the full-length Portrait of Cardinal de Bonald, XIXth century, work of the Collection of the Endowment Fund "Patrimoine et Arts Liturgiques" of Lyon, France

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The Muses & A.R.T. Association was asked in 2019 to intervene on a religious painting belonging to the endowment fund “Patrimoine et Arts Liturgiques”. It is a full-length portrait of Cardinal de Bonald, Archbishop of Lyon from 1839 to 1870, with the Cathedral of Saint-Jean in Lyon in the background. It is signed Georges Dupré and dated 1844.

This large-format work, which was to be destroyed, was recovered in extremis by the Endowment Fund and entrusted to the association, then under development at the beginning of 2019, in order to carry out conservation-restoration operations essential to its preservation.


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Item : Oil on canvas

Topic : Full-length portrait

Title : The Cardinal of Bonald

Signature : Georges Dupré

Period : 19th century (signed 1844)

Dimensions : 231cm x 136cm

Nature of the support : Linen canvas on wooden stretcher

Nature of the preparation : clayey, porous, red ochre in color

Old restoration : yes

Owner : Endowment Fund “Patrimoine et Arts Liturgiques”

Observed alterations

  • Localized tenting lifts with risk of paint loss
  • Surface wear of the colored layer
  • Lacunas
  • Ten accidental tears of canvas with a total area of 56 cm²
  • Old non-conforming patchs glued to the back during an old restoration procedure
  • Non-compliant canvas strip on the seam of 136cm x 5cm
  • Accumulated dirt on the rear of the canvas and dirt pocket under the stretcher members
  • Canvas deformations at one angle, caused by the uneven stretcher members
  • Inpaintings from previous interventions
  • Oxidized and yellowed varnish ; darkened and clogged pictorial layer
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Old non-compliant strip glued at the back of the canvas to reinforce the seam
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Ungoing oxidized varnish removal ; the whiteness of the lace is recovered

Works procedure

The work, long preserved in poor conditions, required conservatory operations aimed at consolidating the adhesion of the pictorial layer and treating the canvas support and damaged stretcher. The paint that exhibited tenting lifts in many places was consolidated on the canvas using an adhesive not sensitive to hygrometric variations ; the old non-conforming patchs glued to the back of the canvas were removed mechanically and with solvents ; and the multiple tears of the textile were closed and reinforced to restore its unity to the support of the work. Finally, the angle of the stretcher was consolidated by the addition of a piece of wood to flatten the surface receiving the work, and the deformation of the canvas was absorbed.

Meticulous cleaning of oxidized varnish had to follow in order to achieve an acceptable brightness and depth of colors and composition, and to restore a better reading of the subject. The meticulous filling of the lacunas of the pictorial layer was then achieved with fill and retouching colors. The application of a protective final varnish in bomb came to close our interventions.

Started in spring 2019, the restoration of the work was completed in May 2020.

It required 190 hours of work.

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Removal of the frame
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Consolidating of the paint layer with an adhesive and a heating spatula
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Removal of an old patch at the rear of the canvas ; the original seam that were then recovered seemed secure enough, no consolidation was needed
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Angle of the stretcher that presented a default and accumulated dirt (before)
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The same angle restored : the sretcher member too long was cut and a piece of wood was added to even both members of the stretcher (after)
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Cleaning varnish and old overpainting
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Face with ungoing varnish removal
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The overpainting of a piece of cloth before its removal
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Removal of overpainting : the piece of black cloth was added after the creation af the work in order to actualize the religious statut of the subject ; this overpainting not being the artist's original work, and being of indeginous materials, we choose to remove it without endangering the underlying original work
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Filling of lacunas
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Cleaning and shaping the fill to imitate the pattern and relief of the original paint layer around
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Retouching : the illusionnist method is invisible and imitates the artist's hand and style
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