Conservation information: The observation of Jurgen Ovens’ painting at very large magnification gives access to the most intimate details of the paint surface. What is immediately striking when zooming into the picture are the white spots that show up randomly at many places. This aspect was not originally meant by Ovens but has to do with the conservation history of the painting. If all paintings change through natural ageing, the painting by Ovens suffered more because of the additional factor of climate instability. Since its completion in 1662, the painting has been hanging in the city hall (today Royal Palace). At that time and until the 19th century the building had no adequate isolation from the climate fluctuations outside, and consequently the environmental conditions inside the building were very humid. This factor is very detrimental for the painting’s good preservation and as a result the paint layer flaked, the canvas was deformed and mold grew. Because of this alteration, many restorations took place over the centuries and most recently in the 1980ies. At this occasion the paint losses were filled with white fillings and the fillings were retouched with paint. This was done in the most illusionistic way so that the image would be optically complete again. The techniques used to accomplish this restoration have deteriorated and a couple of years ago the paint used for retouching has started to flake away, uncovering the white fillings present underneath. The white spots are the obvious material evidence of the heavy conservation history of the painting. They are also the evident sign for the need of a new restoration campaign that will occur in short term.
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