Pre-restoration: Leonardo da Vinci’s St John the Baptist (1513-16)
Leonardo Da Vinci’s St John the Baptist (around 1513-16), a treasure of the Louvre Museum in Paris, is once again on view to the public from Wednesday, 9 November after a ten-month cleaning at C2RMF, the nearby restoration and research centre for French museums. The in-depth conservation, which was scrutinized by the media and specialists because of earlier restorations of Leonardo’s work at the museum, refreshes what was “probably the most varnished painting in the Louvre’s collection”, according to a press release.
While St John the Baptist had not been restored since 1802—shortly after it entered the Louvre’s collection—the painting had been regularly varnished since then. A primary objective of this restoration project has been to strip away around 15 layers of varnish that had yellowed and obscured the original painting’s subtleties and colour. Régina Moreira, who carried out the restoration of the painted material, also removed over-painting from previous restorations, including on the arms of the saint, his torso and the background. While the overall effect of the restoration is subtle, areas like the animal skin and Saint John’s curly hair are now more visible.
Leonardo’s hand.) One “particularly interesting” discovery was the presence of finely ground glass, sometimes used as a drying agent, in the darker layers of the work, since it was the most extensive use of this material in any work by the artist.