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Pietà, 15th Century

Oil on Wood Panel


Gift of Dr. T. and Mrs. Paul G. Ecker

Traditional images of the Pieta depict the Virgin Mary mourning the death of Christ, who lies dramatically draped across her lap. The Pieta was a remarkably popular subject in both painting and sculpture from the 13th century to the 17th. This version of the Pieta remains true to the subject matter, but is unique in its unusually close perspective. Rather than looking at the Virgin and Christ from a distance, in the traditional full portrait, we see only their torsos. This intimate setting brings the viewer into the painting and makes the sadness and loss more immediate. 

Condition of the Artwork (2009): 

A cross shaped pattern of missing paint may indicate that bracing was present as one time. A very heavy application of the paint or putting along the reverse of the left edge indicates that the left edge of the panel may have been extended by 5/8” either when the panel was constructed or possibly when it was repaired, a very long time ago. There is very fine, slightly cupped age cracking visible overall. There is extensive repaint and filling along ½” to ¾” of the left edge, part if which disfigures the face of Christ. 

A small spot of repaint in Christ’s face has stuck to the frame rabbet. Abrasions to intact paint in the face of Christ also make it difficult to read. The bottom and right edges also have large areas of old filling and repaint. The finish varnish is probably a natural resin. The robes of Mary and the background have heavy remnants of older natural resin varnish which glows green under ultra violet light. The torso of Christ also exhibits remnants of old, glowing varnish. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed:

  • Remove/reduce the degraded varnish layers with appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove/reduce the old repaint/inpainting with appropriate cleaning agents. Viewing of the surface through a binocular microscope, while removing the repaints, is advisable.
  • Apply a conservation quality isolating varnish overall.
  • Paint losses and abrasions must be carefully inpainted to clarify details in the face of Christ.
  • Apply a conservation quality finishing varnish overall.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:  $3,600.00