Restoring a Masterwork I: Castiglione's Immaculate Conception with Saints Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua - Fall 1999
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Condition Report

The Midwest Art Conservation Center
2400 Third Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404


Owner: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts 2400 Third Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55404
Title: The Immaculate Conception with Saints Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua
Artist: Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (El Grechetto)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: H 12' 5/8" W 7'3"


Construction: The painting is executed on a broadly woven, plain weave canvas of heavy weight. The canvas is attached with tacks to a nine-member replacement keyable stretcher which appears to date from the time of the present restoration. Outer stretcher members are 4 3/4" wide and 1 3/4" deep.The canvas is lined overall with what appears to be an aqueous glue/paste adhesive. The lining appears to consist of two layers of an open weave, fairly heavy weight, plain weave gauze canvas.

Condition: The stretcher is very well constructed with wide members and keys at all joins. The stretcher is more than adequate for a painting of this size and weight. It appears that the painting's tacking edges have been trimmed from all edges.

The canvas and lining are in poor condition. The canvas is delaminated from the lining material in several large areas, most noticeable in the upper fourth of the painting at the left. The canvas and lining is very severely bulged in several areas, the largest of which is located in the bottom third of the painting. Importantly, the bulges become more pronounced with increased relative humidity. In addition, the painting is quite slack on the stretcher; little or no tension is present on the canvas and lining.

From the condition of the canvas and lining, it can be assumed that the glue/paste adhesive is failing due to age, the amount of adhesive used in the lining process, and/or the lining techniques utilized. Overall, the painting surface is somewhat disfigured by a strong weave impression. The weave of the original canvas has been enhanced by the heat, moisture, and pressure used in the glue/paste lining process. The weave impression is a permanent deformation and cannot be removed or reduced.

Interestingly, on a 1967 Intermuseum Conservation Association condition card for the Castiglione, Richard Buck notes that the canvas was slack and that restoration was darkened. By 1968, the areas of delamination of canvas from lining material is mentioned and mapped on the card.


Construction: The broadly woven canvas is primed with what appears to be a red earth colored ground. The paint layer is characteristic of an oil bound medium and has been applied quite directly and broadly, utilizing wet-into-wet techniques.

Condition: The paint and ground layers are in fairly good condition. In the bottom fourth of the painting, there are numerous, large losses which are unfilled and toned a uniform dark brown color. The losses are somewhat localized, suggesting that the damage may be related to handling or, perhaps, loss due to exposure to water or moisture.

There are scattered smaller losses throughout the painting. Some retouching has been executed in what appears to be a synthetic resin medium with zinc white pigment. The areas have blanched, making the retouching visible from viewing distance. The more finely executed retouching appears in the upper half of the painting.

In more thinly painted areas, the red ground is somewhat more visible. This may indicate that some solvent damage may have resulted in earlier cleanings. The full extent of abrasion and loss cannot be ascertained before varnish and retouching reduction or removal.


Construction: The painting appears to be surfaced with a synthetic resin varnish of moderate thickness. As noted, the losses are inpainted with both synthetic and oil based mediums.

Condition: Recent solvent testing suggests that the synthetic resin is aged and has crosslinked, requiring fairly polar solvents for swelling and removal.

The varnish is not discolored to an amber or yellow, rather, the varnish has a grayish tint when dissolved, again, suggesting a synthetic resin. The varnish is now dulled and granular in surface quality. Saturation is extremely poor, particularly in darkly colored or toned passages. The varnish is imbedded with a substantial dirt/grime layer. In addition, amine deposits are also probably present.

As noted, both the synthetic and oil medium retouching are blanched or discolored. The oil retouching is fairly easily thinned with acetone or other alcohols.


This large painting requires extensive conservation treatment. It is strongly recommended that the painting be relined. The present lining should be removed and the excess glue/paste adhesive removed from the reverse of the canvas. New lining material would be prepared and adhered to the canvas with a thermoplastic, stable, synthetic resin adhesive. The lined painting would be reattached to its present stretcher.

Surface dirt, grime, accretions will be removed from the surface of the painting. The synthetic resin varnish, which appears to have crosslinked and has become insoluble in lesser solvents, should be reduced or removed as necessary. Removal of the varnish will become increasingly difficult as it ages and, in fact, may be irreversible in the future.

Areas of retouching will be reduced or removed as necessary. The painting will be varnished with an appropriate synthetic resin to maximize saturation of the paint layers. Losses will be filled and inpainted using stable synthetic medium. A protective backing board will be secured to the reverse of the stretcher and the painting will be reframed.


Examination; prepare Report on Condition and Proposal for Treatment.

Photodocument all phases of treatment in color slides.

Remove dirt, grime, and accretions from varnish layer. Reduce or remove aged synthetic resin varnish; reduce discolored oil and synthetic resin medium retouching.

Protect paint layer with temporary facing. Remove painting from stretcher; remove old lining from reverse of the canvas. Reduce or remove excess glue/paste adhesive from reverse of canvas.

Prepare new lining materials. Hand line painting. Reattach lined painting to stretcher; remove facing.

Apply non-yellowing synthetic resin varnish. Fill and inpaint losses using stable synthetic medium; apply final protective varnish layer.

Adjust tension on canvas; secure protective backing board to reverse of canvas; reframe painting properly. Write Report on Treatment. Conservator: Joan H. Gorman Senior Paintings Conservator Date: January 7, 1999

Client: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts