'Portrait of Mrs Bradford (nee Anne Larkin) and Samuel Bradford', 1752, oil on canvas

Artist unknown. Private collection.


The painting is a double portrait of Mrs Anne Bradford and her son, Samuel Bradford, painted in London, in around 1752, by an unknown British portrait painter. It is owned by a Melbourne family who are the descendants of the sitters. The portrait arrived in Australia in 1859.


When the painting arrived at CCMC, it was in a degraded condition, owing to the two large tears. There was dirt across the surface, and a degraded, darkened natural resin varnish covering the painting.


The painting was cleaned and the discoloured varnish removed.  The old patches on the reverse were removed. The tears were repaired using a thread-by-thread mending technique (see image below).

A conservation-grade varnish was applied, and the losses filled and inpainted to match the original surrounding paint layer. A final spray-coating of varnish was applied.

Treatment stages

Figure 1

Before treatment (cleaning test evident on sleeve of Mrs Bradford)

Figure 2

During treatment, partial removal of discloured varnish

Figure 3

During treatment, after complete removal of varnish, prior to inpainting tears and damages

Figure 4

After treatment

Figure 5

Before treatment, detail of tear and discoloured varnish

Figure 6

During treatment, after varnish removal, before inpainting of tear

Figure 7

During treatment, after varnish removal, before inpainting of tear

Figure 8

After treatment, detail, after inpainting

Figure 9

Before treatment, reverse of the canvas with old patches present

Figure 10

"Trekker" instrument, used to draw the torn canvas together to enable repair of the tear

Figure 11

After treatment, detail of the tear repair on the reverse, with sutures of polyester applied with a synthetic adhesive to provide additional support

Figure 12

Analytical methods are used to investigate the artist’s technique and to inform the treatment approach. Tiny samples of paint are removed and mounted in resin to reveal a cross-section of the paint layers. This sample is taken from the dress, and reveals the typical English double ground layer and then the pigmented paint layers on top