'David and Abigail in the desert' c.1650 oil on canvas

Artist: Jan Christaensz Micker (1600-64), Private collection


The painting is a mid-seventeenth century Dutch panel painting, depicting a scene from the Old Testament. The painting was varnished with a natural resin varnish, which had discoloured over time and was obscuring the image. The sky had also been heavily overpainted in the past (see figure 1, the painting before treatment).


A solvent solution removed the varnish and some of the old restoration. Samples were removed, with the owner’s permission, to determine the level of overpaint present on the painting (See figure 3 for a cross-section from the painting). A conservation-grade varnish was applied to the painting, and reintegration of areas of loss undertaken.

Treatment stages

Figure 1

Before conservation treatment.

Figure 2

During removal of the discoloured varnish.

Figure 3

Cross-section of paint taken from the top right corner of the painting, in the blue sky area. The top layer is non-original overpaint. Photomicrograph taken at 40x magnification.

Figure 4

Top right corner of the painting, showing darker blue overpaint covering discoloured varnish and underneath these layers three little birds in the sky.

Figure 5

Top right corner of the painting, after removal of old overpaint and varnish, revealing the three birds in the sky.

Figure 6

The painting after cleaning and filling of losses (the white areas are the filler material), before inpainting.

Figure 7

The painting after treatment.