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Hans Jakob Oeri, Chloe, 1806 (detail), Kunsthaus Zürich, donated by Lili Usteri, 1945

It was created during or immediately after a period of study in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts and in the studio of Jacques-Louis David. The work was donated to the Kunsthaus Zürich by Lili Usteri in 1945, and has been an integral part of the permanent exhibition ever since.

The work’s condition is problematic, for reasons related partly to the painting technique and materials used, and partly to its history. The thin, quite drily executed paintwork was applied to a very thin canvas with low adhesion known as cheesecloth, which made it fragile from the outset. Over the years, numerous areas of paint loss of varying sizes appeared. The work had been restored at least once before it entered the Kunsthaus in 1945. The original thin canvas, heavily damaged at the edges, has been lined over its entire surface, tears have been repaired, areas of paint loss filled and retouched.

The restoration

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Detail of an area of filling with retouching: the filler was applied too thickly and the retouching has become discoloured.
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Hans Jakob Oeri, Chloe, 1806, Kunsthaus Zürich, donated by Lili Usteri, 1945
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Detail of the tear in the middle of the picture
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Detail of the sky with darkened retouching and clearly visible craquelure
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Detail of the picture edge: the (ragged) original canvas on the lining canvas
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UV fluorescence image: the retouching shows up as dark areas.

Restoring the restoration

Unfortunately, these earlier measures have themselves caused a large amount of new damage. The thin canvas and the paint layer were heavily compressed during lining, rendering the structure of the canvas much more visible. Probably as a result of tensions between the different fabrics, pronounced craquelure following the structure of the canvas has occurred, as well as numerous new instances of flaking.

Most of the retouching is now discoloured and impairs the appearance of the painting. The lining canvas seems to have come loose around the tear in the centre of the picture, causing it to bulge outwards. Overcleaning and removal of varnish has thinned certain areas, causing partial loss of the paint layers.

Planned measures

A large part of the project will involve consolidating the fragile paint layer, cleaning the surface, filling and retouching other areas of paint loss where necessary, improving the old filling and retouching, and checking the old tears to repair them if required. Extra protection will then be applied to the rear of the painting, to reduce movements of the canvas when it is being handled and transported.

Restorers: Annette Schulz-Marty / Sandra Weber
Project period: June–December 2019

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