Since the 2016 Giving Challenge held by The Community Foundation of Sarasota County , Ringling Conservation staff and contracted conservators have been hard at work (between other pressing projects) treating the Watermelon Regatta allegorical painting. The fantastical composition depicts various animals and other creatures with dwarfs rowing boats made of melon rinds down a canal, while onlookers observe from the sidelines.
(Video: Amanda Robinson)
To return this painting to a state that is closer to its intended appearance, multiple stages of cleaning were undertaken to remove old mismatched overpaint, discolored varnish, and excessive fill material that was not consistent with the original composition. Find out more about this part of the process.
When it was determined that nothing more of the non-original materials could be removed without risking damage to the original paint layers, a coat of isolating varnish was applied over the entire surface by Chief Conservator Barbara Ramsay and Graduate Conservation Intern Elizabeth Robson. This stable, synthetic resin layer not only saturated the colors beautifully, but it will also ensure that all materials applied on top of it remain fully reversible.
During varnishing, you can see the top part of the painting has been saturated with varnish and the colors appear much more vibrant.
Varnish drying in the conservation lab.
The conservators are currently working on infilling the areas of loss scattered throughout the painting and adjusting old fills so that their texture better matches that of the surrounding original paint. Then they will carry out comprehensive inpainting of all of the damaged areas to make the image readable again, so that the scene can be understood and enjoyed by everyone.
Montage of images taken before varnishing (at left) and after varnishing (at right).