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Restoration of the Painting "Adoration of the Magi" (attributed to Cornelis van Cleve)

This large-format (232 × 192 cm) composition on the typical subject of The Adoration of the Magi was painted for the interior of a church. The treatment of the subject is indicative of the influence of the Antwerp Mannerists and also, in the use of forms from classical architecture, of Italian art. The picture came into the Hermitage in 1814, from the collection of Empress Josephine that was kept in the Château de Malmaison. Over the course of the next centuries, the attribution of this painting changed several times – from the Netherlandish school of Lambert Lombard (attribution by Gustav Friedrich Waagen, 1864) to Cornelis van Cleve (Max Jakob Friedländer, 1937). On the basis of stylistic features, the painting has been dated to approximately 1550.

  • A detail of the painting before restoration
  • General view of the painting before restoration with ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence
  • A detail of the painting before restoration
  • The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1550), attributed to Cornelis van Cleve
  • The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1550), attributed to Cornelis van Cleve
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The painting was transferred from panel to canvas in the Hermitage by the restorer Andrei Mitrokhin. An inspection of the work in late 2017 identified numerous old restorations, darkened varnish, soiling and overpainting that have completely obscured the original colour scheme of the work. The painting has not been on display in the museum for a long time. Modern scientific restoration will make it possible to bring back its original appearance and to present this outstanding work in the halls of Netherlandish art.

The project envisages carrying out the following types of work:

  • drawing up restoration documentation
  • photographing the exhibit at all stages of the restoration process
  • technical examination
  • removal of the soiling
  • regeneration of the varnish layer
  • developing a procedure for reducing the thickness of the old varnish and removal of later overpainting
  • reducing the thickness of the varnish across the whole surface
  • removal of areas of overpainting
  • repeat regeneration of the varnish
  • coating the painting with varnish
  • making good the losses (tinting)

A working group for the restoration of the painting has been formed from members of the Hermitage staff:

scholarly supervisor – Nikolai Zykov, researcher in the Department of Western European Fine Art

project co-ordinator – Evgeny Fedorov, head of the Project Finance Sector of the Development Service

project curator – Victor Korobov, head of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Easel Paintings

artist-restorer – Valery Brovkin