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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: A different kind of flyspeck!

by Conservation


paintings , conservation , inpainting , Isaak Soreau , flemish still life , flyspecks , insects

Sometimes our paintings conservator might find an ancient flyspeck on a painting.  These have usually come about in the centuries before a work entered the museum’s collection.  However our conservator recently encountered entirely different kind of flyspeck.  This small still-life by Isaak Soreau is nearing the end of a long campaign of inpainting.  While there was some complete paint loss in the upper background, most of the damage was light abrasion on many of the items in the still-life.  The abraded paint made portions of the composition very hard to see. 

During inpainting, the small points of abrasion were dotted or toned in with restoration paints.  As the campaign progressed, details of the scene became more apparent.  Among those elements that emerged from the confusion, these two houseflies and a barely visible mayfly, each measuring just fractions of an inch.  A different kind of flyspeck indeed!


Image: Isaak Soreau (Flemish, b. 1604, d. post 1638,) “Still Life with Dish of Strawberries,” circa 1630, oil on panel, Gift of Mrs. Robert McKay, 1960.496