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La Maladie D'Alexandre

Henri Augustin Gambard

La Maladie D'Alexandre, 1846

Oil on Canvas


Purchased with Funds provided by Mrs. Herbert Morris 

Gambard’s Maladie D’Alexandre is a depiction of the scene in Plutarch’s Life of Alexander in which Alexander shows faith in his doctor, Philip. The scene was the sujet definitif, or theme, for the Concours des Prix de Rome in 1846. The Rome Prize was the aspiration of most 19th century French Salon painters, and the Malady of Alexander was addressed by many well-known artists, including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, in the same year. Although Gambard’s piece did not win the Prix de Rome, it was acclaimed as one of the year’s best submissions. 

Condition of the Artwork (2009): 

The oil rich paint layers were not allowed to dry sufficiently between layers resulting in many areas of small to medium scale, contraction cracking, and fine paint wrinkling. The contraction cracking ranges from slight to severe. Small to medium scale, slightly cupped, age cracking has followed the pattern of the contraction cracking and also formed its own patterns. 

Ultra violet light reveals large areas of repaint in the areas of the painting with the canvas patches. In particular, the paint in the area of the larger patch has large blotches of repaint visible under ultra violet light. Many areas of contraction cracking have also been inpainted. The bottom edge has many paint losses that have been inpainted. The top edge has a large swath of repaint that seems to fill in the slight curve of a canvas that shrank from moisture exposure. 

The finishing varnish is very dull and poorly saturates the paint layer, it may be an early synthetic, with a large molecular size that does not saturate paint layers well. There are many areas where the surface varnish is peeling away from the painting; this appears to have been caused by paste residues left on the surface after a previous treatment. Ultra violet light reveals that older layers of natural resin varnish were not completely removed from the paint layer, mostly in the darker paint colors in the lower half of the painting. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed:

  • The patches on the reverse appear to be stable and do not appear to be affecting the surface plane; they may be left in place at this time. The dull varnish, abrasions and peeling paste residues combine to give the painting a very poor appearance.
  • Remove/reduce the discolored varnish.
  • Remove/reduce old repaints with the appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove/reduce any residues of old grime and varnish embedded in paint interstices.
  • Apply an isolating layer of a conservation quality varnish overall.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses and abrasions with conservation quality materials.
  • Apply a conservation quality finish varnish overall.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:  $9,500.00