Art Conservator Restores A Portrait Of Isabella De Medici

Ellen Baxter of the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMA) has finished her hard work in restoring a 16th-century portrait of Isabella de Medici. She was the daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Eleonora di Toledo. 

Her artwork was actually concealed beneath a 19th-century overpainting depicting what is assumed to be her mother. Baxter undertook a laborious process of restoring the years of damage through inpainting with tiny brushes. She also used pipettes of varnish and solvent. “You have to …tell her she’s going to look lovely,” she stated. 

The conservator was brought into the project after Louise Lippincott, the CMA’s former curator of fine arts, ran across the work in the museum’s basement storage. Lippincott, who thought that the art was “awful” let Baxter look at it for her second opinion. 

Baxter had a hunch that something wasn’t right, and an x-ray confirmed her initial read on the situation, which was extra layers of paint over the original artwork. After the confirmation, Baxter then proceeded to carefully strip the dirty varnish and other layers until the face of de Medici could be seen. “I’m not the artist. I’m the conservator,” she further explained.”It’s my job to repair damages and losses, to not put myself in the painting.”

And what a good job it was!

Image credit via Carnegie Museum of Art

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