La Salle University Art Museum
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Landscape with Pilgrims at a Grotto

Joos de Momper

Landscape with Pilgrims at a Grotto, 1620

Oil on Canvas


Joos de Momper was a pioneer in the development of landscape painting. Born in Antwerp, de Momper journeyed over the Alps to Italy in the 1580s. The majestic peaks he included in many of his landscapes, mainly fantasy views pictured from a high vantage point, are probably the result of these travels. This particular scene is enlivened by the inclusion of produce vendors, monks and several traveling pilgrims, wearing black hats adorned with shells and carrying staffs, who have come to worship at a shrine inside a grotto. 

Condition of the Artwork (2009):

The lined painting is slightly slack on the stretcher. Fine to medium scale, moderate to heavily cupped, age cracking is visible overall. The paint layer has a long history of flaking. Cupped paint is actively detaching from the canvas in many areas. Relatively recent paint losses are visible in the central sky, and in the grotto at right. Visual examination reveals many areas of repaint that repair old flake losses. There are spots of old pinkish or grey repaint smeared throughout the sky, presumably to cover old flake losses. Ultra violet light reveals more recent, loosely done repaints in the foreground and figures. Many repaints are under the thick, green glow of the varnish under UV light and are not readily visible. Abrasions are readily visible in the dark area of the grotto, and in the sky. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed: 

  • The severe cupping and detaching paint has been a problem for many years, resulting in many small losses and areas of repaint. The painting must be given an overall consolidation treatment to arrest the steady, deterioration and paint loss. Remove the painting from the frame. Consolidate the insecure paint from the front with the application of a conservation quality, thermoplastic adhesive.
  • Remove the lined canvas from the stretcher. Humidify, reduce distortions and further consolidate insecure paint by placing the painting face up, under vacuum pressure on the hot table.
  • Remove/reduce the thick, deteriorated varnish layers with appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove/reduce the extensive old repaints with appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove the lining if safely possible; if the bond between the lining and the painting is sound, having been further strengthened by the thermoplastic adhesive used to consolidate the paint layer, it may remain in place.
  • Remove/reduce glue deposits on the reverse.
  • Apply an isolating, conservation quality varnish overall.
  • Line the painting to a new layer of canvas while face up, under vacuum pressure, on the hot table.
  • Remount the painting on the existing stretcher.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses.
  • Apply a final layer of a conservation quality finishing varnish.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Conserved in 2011-2012 With Support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

(See Online Exhibition of Conservation Treatments)