Dating painting stretchers
Panels are often provided with an ancillary support on the reverse in order to attempt to restrain the panel from warping.Generally this has been added by a restorer or conservator but may have been applied in the first construction of the panel. Removing layer after layer of discoloured varnish is the main way seemingly valueless works can be deemed historic finds. The paibting face was in a terrible state; it was miscatalogued as a copy of a Joshua Reynolds. The main trick for spotting overpainting is to look at stretcherd cracks that occur naturally in oil paint over time. Then you might be able to imagine the painting as it would have originally been. Later generations may not have liked a double chin, a very large nose or naked private parts.They may be either a radial cut (most stable) or a tangential cut (prone to warping).The various members of the panel are most commonly joined by a simple abutment of the planks using animal glue to adhere them, however various other methods of joining panels are used (tongue and groove, ziz-zag, overlapping half way) and these are often an indication of date and place of the panel’s construction.
The double ground of our two paintings may be suggestive of Vermeer’s desire to change the colour of a pre-prepared canvas. When this happens the original strainer is usually discarded and a new stretcher (a similar wooden framework but adjustable at the corners) used instead.The Guitar Player is unusual in never having been lined and so the original canvas and strainer are visible.This article describes how Vermeer’s canvases were prepared prior to painting and what the canvas itself can tell us about his painting methods.
As canvas ages it gets brittle and fragile and so most canvas paintings have been lined – that is, new canvas has been stuck behind the original to help support the picture.
Large paintings require the stretcher itself to be further supported.