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Portrait of a Young Woman

Henrietta Johnston

Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1710

Chalk and Pastel on Paper


Gift of Ann and Jay Robert Stiefel 

Henrietta Johnston was an 18th century pastellist who emigrated to American from Ireland in 1705. Johnston supplemented her husband, an Anglican clergyman’s, limited income by selling modestly priced portraits in pastel. Although Johnston has no recorded artistic training, her style is similar to that of English painter Edward Luttrell who resided in Dublin around the same time as Johnston. Her work consists primarily of uniformly-sized, bust-length portraits, all signed and dated on the back of hand-made wooden frames. Johnston worked with dark and undefined backgrounds, accentuating her sculptural treatment of her sitters’ clothing. The most characteristic feature of Johnston’s style are large, liquid eyes with a bright highlight on the left side, indicating lighting from that direction. She also used strong shadows with touches of white to suggest luxurious fabrics like satin. 

Current Condition of the Artwork: 

Poor framing materials and techniques, with direct contact to the glass, wood backing board, and wood frame rabbet have caused deterioration and discoloration in the paper. There are white powdery deposits of mold that are currently dormant. The paper is distorted from having expanded inside a frame that is too small to safely accommodate the dimensions of the paper. The pastel media extends to the paper perimeter, and there is loss and staining in the paper and image at the perimeter. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed: 

  • Remove mold and accretions from pastel surface.
  • Mend with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.
  • Fill losses with a western laid paper that is similar in weight, tone, and texture.
  • Inpaint inserts with pastel to blend them into the image.
  • Carefully humidify and flatten.
  • Pastel should be monitored for future mold growth. Mold can never be fully eliminated and can proliferate if exposed to a warm, humid environment.
  • Reframe pastel in its original frame, after modification.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:  $1,000.00