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The Trinity with Saints formerly Attributed to Jacopo Palma the Younger

Technical Examination and Conservation of a 16th Century Italian Painting
Dóra Fekete, Judit Fiam, Edit Miko et Rebeka Tisla


Durand l'année académique 2015/2016 la conservation d'une peinture sur toile du 16e siècle, autrefois attribuée à Jacopo Palama a été réalisé au département de l'Université hongroise des Beaux-Arts. La restauration a été rendue nécessaire à cause de l'assombrissement du vernis et la détérioration due à des dégâts des eaux. Une série d'examens techniques a été effectuée. L'examen photographique (réflectographie IR, radiographie sous rayon X, fluorescence sous UV, lumière rasante) et l'examen de coupe stratigraphique d'échantillons de la couche picturale (microscope optique, fluorescent, polarisant et test microchimique) ont permis de décrire les matériaux et le processus de peinture.

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Texte intégral

1Before the beginning of the conservation treatment in September 2015 nothing more was known of the painting apart from the supposed painter and the main subject of the composition.  Due to the storage in the attic of the Franciscan Monastery of Pest the painting suffered severe water damage.Fortunately, the canvas is intact: the heavy, plain weave fabric, composed of three strips running vertically was not damaged. The strong fabric reinforced by the lining canvas proved to be a firm support even during the water exposure: the losses of the ground and paint layers are numerous but not too extensive.

2The provenance of the painting is still the subject of historical research: the earliest data we have is a mention of the canvas in the 1868 inventory of the Franciscan Monastery of Pest as a donation by the Hungarian baronial family Luby. It is described in the inventory as an image “picta a Jacopo Palma 1564 anno” (“painted by Jacopo Palma in the year 1564”). This attribution was surely based on the inscription on the back of the presumably 19th century lining canvas. When this canvas was removed during the conservation process, no similar text could be detected on the original.

3A series of technical examinations were carried out in order to plan the conservation progress (X-radiography, IR-reflectography, UV-fluorescence, raking light images). The X-radiograph showed a high number of pentimenti (autograph alterations by the artist) of the composition’s elements during the painting process. The gestures and the position of the figures were modified, which proves that the painter did not plan carefully the details of the large scale picture but experimented with colour and form directly on the canvas. On the X-radiograph a half figure of a man became visible at the bottom right corner: this figure, presumably the donor of the painting, was completely covered with thick layers of overpainting.

4According to cross sections the ground consists of at least three layers. It contains red, blue, yellow, green and black particles – this might be “palette scraping” or the oil used for brush-washing mixed into the ground material. This method was a common practice in the 16th century North Italian and particularly Venetian canvas paintings when coloured grounds came to be widely used. The microchemical tests showed the ground to contain oil as binding medium andlead white as siccative.

5Examining the cross sections of the samples and the pigment samples separated from the original paint, we were looking for pigments that can be related to a specific time period.These examinations (normal, fluorescent and polarized light microscopy and microchemical tests) revealed the use of ultramarine, smalt, cinnabar and yellow ochre pigments.

Fig.1 X-ray image

Fig.1 X-ray image

The X-ray image revealed numerous pentimenti. The most extensive alterations were to the figure of the Virgin in the centre of the composition.

Fig. 2 Painting after varnish removal

Fig. 2 Painting after varnish removal

Losses and alterations.

6The result of the present cleaning, and improved legibility of the painted surface led to the rejection of Jacopo Palma’s authorship. However, the painting fits well into the tradition of North-Italian 16th century painting. A new attribution is still the subject of the ongoing historical and technical research.

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Document annexe

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig.1 X-ray image
Légende The X-ray image revealed numerous pentimenti. The most extensive alterations were to the figure of the Virgin in the centre of the composition.
Fichier image/jpeg, 948k
Titre Fig. 2 Painting after varnish removal
Légende Losses and alterations.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
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Référence électronique

Dóra Fekete, Judit Fiam, Edit Miko et Rebeka Tisla, « The Trinity with Saints formerly Attributed to Jacopo Palma the Younger », CeROArt [En ligne], HS | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2017, consulté le 18 janvier 2018. URL :

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Dóra Fekete

Judit Fiam

Edit Miko

Rebeka Tisla

Hungarian University of Fine Arts (Budapest), Conservation Department. Supervisors/promoters: Dr Katalin Görbe, Dr András Heitler, Dr Ildikó Fehér

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Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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