CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Self Portrait by Rubens from the Rubens House in Antwerp restored in London

The Self Portrait by Rubens that graces the Rubens House is being restored. Visitors wishing to view the painting should do so by 7 September 2014; after that, the painting will travel to the National Gallery in London for restoration. The work will return in 2015 for the exhibition Rubens in Private. The master portrays his family, after which it will resume its usual place in the gallery.

From the Rubens House website, 26 August 2014

Rubens’ Self Portrait is one of the Rubens House’s most notable paintings. It is of iconic value to Antwerp and rarely leaves the museum. The painting will soon be restored for the upcoming exhibition Rubens in Private. The master portrays his family, which offers a glimpse of Rubens as his family’s portraitist.

The restoration

The Conservation Department at the National Gallery in London will restore the Rubens House’s Self Portrait for the exhibition. The work will first undergo an extensive technical investigation. The results of that study may provide greater insight into Rubens’ technique and the panel’s construction. Though Rubens was extremely careful and competent in every aspect of his craft, he had the habit of constructing the panels for his personal paintings — such as landscapes and family portraits — from multiple pieces of wood. As a result, the panels are more fragile than usual, which has inevitable consequences for their conservation. For example, the works are difficult to transport; every joint is a potential risk. The Self Portrait is also composed of multiple boards. The scientific investigation will shed useful light on the painting’s construction. In addition, previous retouching will be removed and the work will receive a new coat of varnish.

The Conservation Department at the National Gallery is famed for its skill. The studio previously restored the portrait of Margaret van Eyck on display in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges.