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What’s New with Pietro da Cortona’s “The Triumph of David”?

Intriguing developments about “The Triumph of David” have occurred since our previous blog post about this Cortona painting. The painting has been completely cleaned and, over the Memorial Day weekend, varnished. And, most impressive, Anthony Lagalante, PhD, associate professor, Dept. of Chemistry, received a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for technical analysis of the artwork. Dr. Lagalante received the notification and a check for $24,000 at the end of May.

Although varnishing is normally the final step in the creation of an oil painting, the conservator, Kristin de Ghetaldi, explains, “We always put a thin ‘isolation’ coat of varnish on the surface of paintings after we have removed as much of the unoriginal restoration as we are able. This helps to bring back some of the saturation but also serves as a barrier layer between the original surface and any materials that we then add (fills, inpainting, etc.).”

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Areas with gouache viewable on painting’s bottom right.

Currently the interns, volunteers and de Ghetaldi are filling areas of paint loss and toning the fills with red gouache (gouache is opaque watercolor paint) to simulate the original ground of “The Triumph of David.” To observe the conservators in action, visit the Reading Room in Falvey Hall (aka Old Falvey) or watch the live feed. The conservators are happy to answer questions about their work.

For more information about the conservation project – “About the Restoration;” the Kress award; biographies of the conservation team; the chemistry of the painting; a biography of the donor, Princess Eugenia Ruspoli (1861-1951, born Jennie Berry in Alabama); and more – go to projects.library.villanova.edu/paintingrestoration/ or from Falvey’s homepage, click “Projects” and scroll to “Conserving a Giant …”

For more information about the artist, Pietro da Cortona, see “Dig Deeper: About the artist Pietro da Cortona.”


imagesArticle by Alice Bampton, digital image specialist and senior writer on the Communication and Service Promotion team. 

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Last Modified: August 19, 2014