An interesting article addressing the relative absence of some underdrawing in certain genres of painting has been published as part of a Festscrift celebrating the work of Renate Woudhuysen-Keller. Charlotte Caspers, Johanneke Verhave and Margreet Wolters were involved in the recent research project examining the workshop of Dutch painter Michiel van Mierevelt, which was responsible for producing enormous numbers of portraits and portrait copies during the Seventeenth Century. Some of the sitters’ faces revealed readily identifiable carbon-based underdrawing whilst others showed nothing in infrared reflectography – something commonly found in paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Since Mierevelt’s workshop was reproducing near identical portrait types it seeemed certain that they must be employing some sort of ‘underdrawing’ to transfer the designs. So the authors set about making various reconstructions using different materials and transfer techniques to test their relative visibility in infrared reflectography. Interestingly, more materials applied to the toned imprimatura were visible than expected (including burnt umber and madder lake) and it was only with the build up of multiple layers of paint that the red lake underdrawing became ‘invisible’ in IRR. Reconstructions also showed that the method of transfer had a pronounced effect on the appearance and visibility of underdrawing in IRR and led the researchers to believe that Mierevelt’s later portraits may have been done in a madder lake using a counterproof transfer method. IRR was also found useful in giving information about underpainting layers. Since TSR have often encountered paintings that appear partially underdrawn in IRR research like this helps to confirm our theories that different pigments and transfer techniques could explain such absences, particularly in the faces of portraits where preliminary drawings must have been used.
Charlotte Caspers, Johanneke Verhave and Margreet Wolters, ‘Reconstructing Towards a Better Understanding: A Study of Missing Underdrawings in Van Mierevelt’s Portraits’ in Lucy Wrapson, Jenny Rose, Rose Miller and Spike Bucklow (Eds.), In Artists’ Footsteps: The Reconstruction of Pigments and Paintings, London, Archetype, 2012, pp. 95-108.
This publication also features Kate Stonor’s recent article on Corot’s painting technique, co-authored with the National Gallery’s Sarah Herring and Hayley Tomlinson, which examines the artist’s use of commercial supports and early use of newly invented pigments.
Kate Stonor, Sarah Herring and Hayley Tomlinson, ‘Further Observations on Corot’s Late Painting Technique’ in Lucy Wrapson, Jenny Rose, Rose Miller and Spike Bucklow (Eds.), In Artists’ Footsteps: The Reconstruction of Pigments and Paintings, London, Archetype, 2012, pp. 116-128.