Painting Conservation

John Ferneley

The Melton Hunt: In the Widmerpool Country

Oil on canvas (lined)
Dimensions 1520 x 625 mm
Conservator: Bronwyn Leone
Treatment completed: March 2015

Framed in a gilded wooden frame with corner embellishments and inscription
Signed bottom centre left finely in black ‘1825’


The painting was examined along with its pendant ‘The Melton Hunt: The Brook under Tilton on the Hill’ which was undergoing treatment. Microscopic examination revealed interesting features of the artist’s technique, as well as details regarding the condition of the painting.



The canvas is stretched to a five member wooden stretcher with one vertical cross member. The stretcher has several scuffs and scratches. The keys of the central cross bar are missing but the tension of the canvas is not compromised. There is a fair amount of dust and debris at the reverse and behind the stretcher bars. Labels on the stretcher are photographically documented.


The painting has been glue paste lined with the original tacking margins removed. The original canvas is a tight, medium-fine weave. The lining canvas is a fine weave linen canvas, attached to the stretcher with tacks that have become somewhat degraded and rusty, with some degradation of the canvas around some of the tack holes. The reverse and edges of the canvas have a thickish layer of grey dirt. A vertical weave interference is clearly visible in a raking light.


There is an even biscuit-coloured ground layer. This is visible through the paint layers due to the painting technique both at spaces between the brushstrokes and through areas of thinner paint, as well as along the top edge.

Paint Layers

The paint layers have been finely and deftly applied with visible brushstrokes and with a wet-into-wet technique in the details of the horses, figures and dogs. There is a slight impasto to the detail of the paint. There are some areas of drying craquelure such as along the horizon, in some of the foliage, and in the dark glaze-rich paint of the foreground.

Microscopic examination reveals details of the artist’s technique, such as feathering of the brushstrokes to produce fine detailed effects in for example a horse’s eye. It can also be seen that a certain paint used for detailing of the reigns and crops has resisted on the surface, suggesting this was applied after drying of the underlayer. Traditional techniques of buildup of layers in for example the red drapery with the use of vermilion underlayers and a red lake glaze is also clearly evident.

There are pentimenti in the positioning of the branches of the trees.

There is some abrasion to the paint from earlier cleaning. There is scuffing along the edges from framing. There has been some moating of the impasto as a result of the lining. There is a small recent damage to the varnish and paint layers in the centre sky.


There is a fairly discoloured layer of natural resin varnish which is uneven resulting in some areas being more obscured by the yellow discolouration than others. This is also thicker in the foreground than in the sky due to uneven removal in the past. Under ultraviolet light the varnish fluoresces greenish and the unevennesses are visible as large swipes due to application or thinning of the resin.


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Posted: 2015/06/30 (16:00:26)
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