Famous Painting Has Over 200 Years Worth Of Dirt Removed From It, Looks Completely Different

Updated November 13, 2017

Sometimes all it takes is a little cleaning up to make something old look new again.

In a detailed video, a British art dealer highlighted the restoration of a 17th-century oil painting covered in almost two centuries of varnish. The Jacobean era painting can be seen slowly coming to life as the result of someone gently removing the varnish that had accumulated over 200 years.

“A remarkable Jacobean re-emergence after 200 years of yellowing varnish,” Phillip Mould wrote, alongside the video that he shared on social media.

The layer of varnish was slowly removed thanks to the restorationist’s gently brush strokes. He uses a delicate hand to move the brush in small circular motions and it’s obvious that this guy is a professional. As he continues to move the brush, the painting comes to life. The blue eyes are brighter when they emerge from underneath the varnish and the face has a nice healthy glow to it. The end result is a masterpiece showing off the vibrant colors from the original painting.

The restorationist is even amazed at the change in the painting and he can be heard saying…
“Gosh, that’s amazing. This is as pristine as it gets.”

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When he wipes away the excess varnish, there is a perfect depiction of the before and after. The camera moves away so you can see the image from a distance and it’s absolutely stunning.
Mould was sure to share a photo of the before and after, which showcases the uncleaned image and the cleaned image of the mysterious woman in red.

“All we know is she is 36 and it was painted 1618,” he wrote.

Mould was particularly pleased with the transformation of the painting when the restorationist worked hard to clear up the area underneath the chin and portions of the woman’s dress.

Commenters shared their thoughts on the painting…

“Growing up looking at all those old paintings done by the great masters I thought a death like palor was the standard look for everyone back then and the background colors were so drab dark and dreary. Removing the varnish now shows why these men were called great masters These paintings can now live again.”

“I look forward to seeing the painting after it’s been cleaned. Such amazing detail you can already see.”

One commenter asked why the varnish doesn’t take off the original paint, and a couple of other commenters had some good answers…

“The varnish dissolves in a solvent that the paint does not. It’s possible that the brushing could scratch the paint, though oils are pretty sturdy, but it won’t dissolve.”

“It’s actually an oil painting, and if you leave the oil unprotected it can easily be smudged, so that’s what the varnish is for. I’m honestly not entirely sure why it’s not smudging but I think it has to do with the varnish and 200 years worth of grime built on top (and of course the mix of chemicals used to remove it).”

It’s amazing what can be one when you combine certain chemicals.