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Andrea del Castagno (before 1419 – 1457)
Portrait of a Man
c. 1450, tempera on wood, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.17

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Before restoration. Photograph: unknown, before 1934, silver gelatin print

 

 

This innovative quattrocento portrait is documented to have been “much injured” by c.1885. This photograph shows it after an undocumented 19th-century restoration. Note the considerable cracking in the face and the gem-encrusted ring.

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Before restoration. Considerable cracking in face and ring

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After 1934–1935 restoration. Photograph: Eugene Brenwasser, c. 1935, silver gelatin print

The painting was offered for sale by M. Knoedler & Co. in 1935 after it was restored by Louis de Wild between 1934 and 1935. De Wild smoothed out the face and obscured the distracting crackle. Additionally, the gem on the ring was scraped off, or perhaps previously damaged, and this loss covered by a plain gold band.

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Current state. Photograph: National Gallery of Art

The current state of the painting reflects the 1940 restoration by Kress Foundation restorer Stephen Pichetto. Past retouches, such as the inpainted crack at the sitter’s left shoulder, have since discolored and now read as brown instead of a brilliant red.