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After treatment, Image courtsey of Museo Nacional del Prado

Since it was not on display in the galleries, this painting needed further treatment to prepare it for viewing in a traveling exhibition. A thick natural resin varnish had been selectively reduced in the past leaving the painting’s colors unbalanced. The yellowed varnish particularly distorted the cool tones of the landscape, sky, and horses which are essential to the image.

Treatment included reducing the varnish layer until all areas of the painting were equally clear and removing discolored retouchings. Varnish residues, stains, and local accretions were then reduced with a solvent gel followed by mechanical removal. Once cleaned the paint layer was treated for consolidation and flattening of raised cracks, and completed with fills and preliminary inpainting in watercolor. 


Though I was not able to finish the final retouching stage, the cleaned and prepared painting was left in the capable hands of the Prado’s skilled conservators who completed its final treatment seen below.

The Fall of Phaeton

Oil on Canvas 
197 x 180 cm

Museo Nactional del Prado

This large painting, The Fall of Phaeton, is attributed to Jan Carl Van Eyke. The painting was examined and treated in the summer of 2017, during my internship at the Museo Nacional del Prado.

The painting, which shows the mythological story of Phaeton, was part of a large commission by Phillip IV for the decoration of his hunting lodge La Torre de la Parada. The project was planned and designed by Rubens with various workshops such as those of Van Eyke and Velázquez producing many of the paintings to Rubens’ designs in 1636 through 1640. A panel sketch by Rubens in the Collection of Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussles, Blegium shows his original composition for this canvas. 

Rubens’ Sketch for the subject of Phaeton.

Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussles, Blegium. Image courtesy of F. Maes (MRBAB)

Before Treatment, Image courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado

Cleaning with water to remove surface dirt.

Thick yellowed varnish distorts the bright hues of the composition.

During varnish cleaning.

Detail during gel cleaning.

Detail of fills in damaged areas.

Painting cleaned with final fills.

Preliminary inpainting of fills with watercolor.

Detail after watercolor inpainting.

After completed treatments. Image courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado.

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