National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child [obverse] Albrecht Dürer (artist)
German, 1471 - 1528
Madonna and Child [obverse], c. 1496/1499
oil on panel
overall: 52.4 x 42.2 cm (20 5/8 x 16 5/8 in.) framed: 66.2 x 55.5 x 7.6 cm (26 1/16 x 21 7/8 x 3 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: German Painting and Sculpture in the Late 1400s and 1500s
Object 5 of 12

Conservation Notes

Examination of the panel and the x-radiograph show that the support is comprised of four boards with vertically oriented grain. Unsmoothed adz marks are visible on the reverse, indicating that the panel was thinned and smoothed after joining. The edges are obscured by the picture frame, although it is possible to see that the bottom edge has been cut. Thin strips of wood are nailed to each picture edge.

Underdrawing in what appears to be a liquid material, possibly iron gall ink, can be seen in the Child's body with the unaided eye. Examination with infrared reflectography reveals diagonally hatched underdrawing in the face of the Madonna, and elsewhere a few contour lines. The Child's left foot was changed slightly from its underdrawn position. The coat of arms at the lower right has been heavily altered. The original arms are painted out, and both the x-radiograph and infrared reflectogram show only a single dark form against a light background. On the surface is a design of vertical and diagonal bars and three balls. Optical microscopy of the blue paint in this design disclosed synthetic ultramarine, a pigment that was not commercially produced until around 1828.[1] The Madonna and Child is in excellent condition. There is a scratch and a retouched loss in the window at the left. There is light abrasion in the flesh tones and in the glazes of the greens. The blue paint of the Madonna's robe is deeply cracked and has accumulated dark accretions in the thickest areas.

[1] Rutherford J. Gettens and George L. Stout, Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia (rev. ed., New York, 1966), 163.

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