Claude Joseph Vernet, Night, oil on canvas, oval 105.5 x 121cm, signed and dated 1750.
The recent conservation of Night, one of the Drawing Room’s four oval marine landscapes by Claude Joseph Vernet, uncovered more than just a masterpiece.
This painting, like the other three, showed evidence on examination of having been through much since painted in 1750. Nevertheless, we were surprised by the intriguing story that came to light during its restoration.
After initial cleaning with deionized water the painstaking process of removing layers of old and discoloured, pigmented varnishes revealed a huge slash mark of 40 cm length stretching from the foreground to the centre of the painting.
We were surprised by the intriguing story that came to light during its restoration.
Shocking Information has come to light explaining how this happened. No doubt this was the vandalism reported in Saunders Newsletter 4 August 1785 (‘some evilminded Person or Persons designedly defaced a capital Picture in one of the great Rooms at Russborough; and on the 1st of August defaced another capital picture of the celebrated Vernet, by cutting them across with a knife or some other sharp instrument.’).
Following extensive repair work, retouching, and varnishing Night is restored to its 18th century atmospheric glory, obscured since it was vandalised in 1785.
It is incredibly unusual to discover how a painting was damaged in the past. The story however is incomplete: research continues to discover who the ‘evil-minded person or persons’ were, what other picture was damaged, and most importantly – why?