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Profile Head – Study

Benjamin West

Profile Head – Study, 18th-19th Century

Oil on Paper on Board


An 18th and 19th century painter and draughtsman from Philadelphia, Benjamin West was the first American artist to achieve significant success internationally, becoming particularly popular in England. Best known as a history painter, West’s most acclaimed painting is The Death of General Wolfe. This work stands out from other history paintings for West’s use of contemporary dress on his figures rather than the traditional classical Greek and Roman drapery favored by most history painters. West is also credited for anticipating Romanticism with his eerie, dreamlike works such as Death on a Pale Horse. Many of West’s paintings are housed in major Philadelphia museums like the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Current Condition of the Artwork: 

This painting requires a collaborative conservation treatment between paper and paintings conservators. There is black pressure sensitive electrical tape applied to, and folded around the front and back perimeter; black tape overlaps painted perimeter on front and masking tape on back of cardstock. There are numerous deteriorated, discolored, overlapping strips of masking tape on back perimeter with two layers on back bottom edge and multiple layers across triangular area of back top right corner. There is general discoloration with speckled staining in lighter tones of paint. The back of the board is darkly and unevenly discolored, with numerous spot stains and accretions. Planar distortions at bottom center and a variety of folds and creases around the edges. Cracked varnish with losses along top at crease. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed: 

  • A paintings conservator must review the condition of the paint layer and determine if treatment is necessary and what steps need to be undertaken.
  • The paper conservator will remove tapes, selectively surface clean the back, and mend.
  • Remove tapes with heat, organic solvents, and/or crepe erasers. Tape removal is made difficult because of its application over the oil paint.
  • Mend cardstock with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. The mending paper will be toned to blend into the back of the board
  • Humidify and flatten to minimize planar distortions.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:  $2,000.00