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Before Treatment

Ultraviolet examination during removal of varnish.

During treatment image of varnish removal.

Cleaned state showing damage pattern from folding.

Preliminary inpainting

Large losses have occurred horizontally across the painting. Their pattern suggests the damages were caused by the crushing of paint and ground layers during folded or rolled storage of the canvas. These gaps disrupt both the visual composition and the surface texture of the painting. During a previous restoration, the damages were covered with a smooth filling material which did not mimic the texture of the paint or canvas.

Tintoretto’s painterly technique relied heavily upon the contrast of the visible canvas weave and the impasto of applied paint layers. The interruption of these surface textures distracted viewers and detracted from the artist’s original achievement.

Portrait of a Venetian Commander in Armor

Domenico Tintoretto
c. 1580

oil on canvas

57.6 x 74.5 cm

Allentown Museum of Art, Kress Collection, Allentown, PA 

This Portrait of a Venetian Commander in Armor, is currently attributed to Domenico Tintoretto during the time that he was still working in the workshop of his father, Jacopo Tintoretto. The goal of the treatment was to improve the surface quality of the painting, which was disrupted by smooth areas of restoration and distorted by a thick and yellowed varnish. This treatment remains in progress under the supervision of Dianne Dwyer Modestini, as part of the Kress Program in Paintings Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. 

Cleaned state of the painting showing damage pattern.  

Re-texturing over previous fills with B-72 retouching gels mixed with dry pigments to replicate canvas and paint texture. 

Examination of the canvas with X-radiography shows the artist alternated quick strokes of radio-opaque lead-white oil paint with strokes of dark paint to quickly sketch the figure’s reserve and composition.


A discussion with Conservator, Dorothy Mahon, and Curator Andrea Bayer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY lead to the examination and comparison of the X-radiograph of Portrait of a Venetian Commander with X-rays of two portraits in the museum’s collection currently attributed to Jacopo Tintoretto.


Similarities were found in the techniques used to delineate the composition. However, the brushwork in the face of the Venetian Commander is less sketch-like in quality. Instead, carefully placed strokes form a solid buildup of paint layers in this portrait now attributed to Domenico Tintoretto.  

After removing the varnish and excessive overpaints, prior fills were reduced with water to allow for the replication of surface texture. B-72 Retouching gels, made by ArtCare UK, were used as a dual inpainting and texturing medium. Dry pigments were mixed with the gels to provide a textured base color, which could be modified as needed.

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