Elizabeth Wicks and finishing touches

Insight into the Artist’s Technique

The restoration process provides an opportunity for in-depth study of artists’ materials and painting methods, enabling scholars to further their understanding of an artist’s working practices and evolving technique. By photographing works in normal and raking light and with non-invasive photo-diagnostic techniques using infrared and ultraviolet light, we can glean vital information not just about technique but also about a painting’s condition. Like earlier seventeenth-century painters, she works from dark to light, creating her forms over the dark red preparation. Her brushstrokes are visible, especially in the lighter areas where the pigment has been applied more thickly, and there is some impasto. Her skill at rendering details of lace, velvet, and other materials, a feature of her portraits, was not required for this altarpiece. However, Siriès’s interest in the textures of the figures’ drapery and flesh tones, and the shaping of the soft clouds, is evident, as is her skill in imparting emotion to the figures’ expressions. Scholars and conservators shared new Violante research at the Medici Archive Project in Florence.

Text by Elizabeth Wicks, in The Lady Who Paints: Violante Siries Cerroti