Artist: Gilbert Stuart

Scientific Test: Removal of varnish, cleaning

Gilbert Stuart

In 2012, conservators at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. began the restoration of sixteen portraits by Gilbert Stuart. The portraits, which include George Washington and John Adams, were cleaned in order to restore the original colors and brushwork. The most important aspect of the cleaning was to remove the yellowed varnish, which obscures and dulls the paintings’ details. Conservators use a diluted solvent to remove the varnish, yet not harm the original paint layers. In the case of one portrait, depicting Abigail Adams, the removal of the varnish revealed an original headdress that had been changed over the course of the fifteen years it took Stuart to complete the painting.

Removal of varnish and cleaning often play an important role in art authentication, as it can reveal new aspects of a painting that may play a deciding role in the final attribution.

Find out now if you have an authentic Gilbert Stuart painting or drawing: