Conserving Elizabeth I

As part of a research project that attributed two oil paintings to the well known Tudor miniaturist, Nicholas Hilliard, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I dating from 1576-8 was fully restored.

The discoloured varnish was removed, as was a great deal of disfiguring overpaint. There was a layer of brown overpaint in the red drapery of the background and the skirts of the dress, which had been applied to cover drying defects in the oil paint. Overpaint had also been applied to damage along the joins between the oak boards that make up the panel support and wear in the face and ruff, which may have been caused by overcleaning in the past. Cleaning revealed the subtle modelling of the face and the bright colours of the background and jewels.

Detail of eyes before (left) and after (right) treatment

Once cleaned, the painting was varnished and the damage was retouched with a reversible medium to disguise the damage and wear, and bring together the portrait of the queen

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