Monday, January 02, 2012

A new double portrait for 2012
Sir Anthony van Dyck, The National Gallery, London
Lady Elizabeth Thimbelby and Dorothy, Viscountess Andover
Original: Oil on canvas 132 x 149 cm (plain weave 11x11)
My copy: Oil on canvas 105 x 120 cm (plain weave 11x11).

I have just prepared a canvas for this charming double portrait by Van Dyck. The original was painted in  England around 1637 and represents two sisters, Elizabeth at the left, and Dorothy at the right, daughters of Thomas, Viscount Savage. The canvas on which the portrait was executed is a single piece of coarse linen. The ground is a double-layered system with a lower layer of a strong red-brown comprising mainly red iron oxide combined with calcium carbonate. This lower layer served only to fill in the canvas' weave and to provide a fairly even surface for the second layer which is completely opaque. There is no optical reason at all for this combining of differently coloured layers. The second layer is a mid grey-brown priming, consisting mainly of lead white, charcoal black and some brown earth pigment. The binding medium of the ground layers shows a high portion of head bodied linseed oil. Although it is difficult to say whether Van Dyck, or better to say his assistent or supplier, applied an emulsion ground into which the surplus amount of the paint layer's oil sank into, it is not without probability that one might assume an oil ground.

For my copy, however I decided to choose a white oil ground on which I applied a second priming consisting of white, some natural umber and ivory black.

The painting was mainly composed alla prima in the most direct manner. The palette is fairly standard: azurite, smalt, ultramarine, green verditer, vermilion, red and yellow lakes, lead-tin yellow, a variety of earth and black pigments and lead white.

I decided to choose the following palette, all paints by Oudt hollandse:
white (unfortunately, I am unable to use lead white as it is no longer available in Germany for hobby artists)
naples yellow (imit., as a substitute for lead-tin yellow)
red lake
burnt siena
ultramarine blue (imit.)
ivory black (Schmincke)

I have to see for which kind of yellow lake I shall opt...
Update: Unfortunately, the canvas has not yet dried sufficiently, so that I have to postpone my posting of photographs.

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