fig. 1 
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

 I have been trying to find time ever since the arrival of the Tiepolo to send you a line. If you were a little closer I would love to crack a bottle with you on the marvellous job you have done in lifting the old girl’s face.1 Daryl Lindsay, letter to Horace Buttery, 25 November 1955, in response to seeing The banquet after cleaning by Horace Buttery in London in 1954–55. National Gallery of Victoria, registry files.

Few paintings inspire the kind of personal emotions expressed here by a gallery director to a restorer. They relate to Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s The banquet of Cleopatra in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Everyone has a view about the Tiepolo. Everyone has a personal anecdote about its significance to them. It has inspired architects and has been a source of challenge and inspiration to artists, both professional and amateur. Everyone has a view about what it looks like, how it was painted and what it should look like. As a consequence, the major examination and restoration treatment undertaken ahead of the re-opening of the newly renovated St Kilda Road building of NGV International was done with this knowledge of the public’s affections and expectations for Tiepolo’s great canvas (fig. 1). The painting, which depicts the moment when the Egyptian queen Cleopatra wins her bet with the Roman consul Mark Antony to stage the most expensive meal in history, was last cleaned in London in 1955, meaning that more than one generation had come to know and love Tiepolo’s The banquet as it appeared. Conservators need to be sensitive to the broad spectrum of perceptions such a widely appreciated work of art carries, while recognising a responsibility to both the preservation of the physical structure of the work and the legibility of the hand of the artist.

When the NGV closed the St Kilda Road building in 1999, the painting was examined closely for the first time in over thirty years. Its well-preserved but structurally fragile condition became apparent (fig. 2), with a passage of flaking and unstable paint extending down through the far right column being a cause for concern.2 The passage of unstable paint was caused by water damage from a leaking roof in the early 1960s in the old Swanston Street Gallery. A small solubility test was made to determine the nature and state of deterioration of the varnish and though it had not appeared particularly discoloured, a dullness was evident in the chromatic and tonal values of the painting, Particularly in comparison to Tiepolo’s fresco and canvas paintings. Old repairs that were no longer in harmony with the surrounding original paint were also noted. A preliminary report was made from this examination with the recommendation that the painting be treated in due course, with consolidation of the lines of flaking paint the first priority and cleaning, the second.

After the closure of the temporary NGV at Russell Street in 2002, the examination was extended. It was evident that effective consolidation of the paint would disturb the surface of the varnish in the treated areas, and this would require a thorough conservation treatment involving varnish removal. A treatment was proposed and agreed upon3 As a matter of protocol, the treatment proceeded only after the ratification of the project by the Chief Conservator; the Curator of International Art; the Deputy Director (International Art); and the Director. (amounting to a year’s work for two people), which would address the structural and aesthetic aspects of the painting. The unique opportunity created by the removal from display of the painting during redevelopment of the St Kilda Road building increased the priority for treatment.4 Because of its importance, The banquet of Cleopatra is required for permanent public exhibition and these demands plus the imposing dimensions of the painting, and the sheer difficulty of moving it from the galleries, had prevented all but the briefest of examinations in the past. Over the year that followed a great deal was learned about the painting and its rich history.

From Venice to St Petersburg and the journey beyond

The provenance of the painting has been clarified by Professor Jaynie Anderson’s recent research. It is now understood that The banquet has lived through four main phases of ownership since Tiepolo lifted his brush from the canvas for the last time in Venice in 1744. It 22 was in Augustus III’s collection in Hubertusburg, near Dresden, for about twenty-two years; in private hands – as revealed by Prof. Anderson – in Northern Europe for thirty-five years; in the Russian Imperial Collection in St Petersburg for 131 years; and finally, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, for just over seventy years.5 The original commission for the painting is thought to have come from Joseph Smith, British consul in Venice. Before it was completed Tiepolo offered it to Count Algarotti for Augustus of Saxony. In the course of treatment several of the previous restoration campaigns were identified and aligned with different phases of ownership. The examination (and in some cases, the uncovering) of the layers of restoration work which were present over parts of the painting made it possible to discern up to four separate layers of old repair in damaged areas – around the edges and corners, and down through the centre of the painting. The chronology of these treatments can be established by matching them to the historical record.

A number of holes around the edges of the painting are notable in the radiograph. They are noted again as patches on the reverse with the stretcher removed and became evident asrepaired areas of the paint layer during cleaning. The shape and spacing of these holes, which pierce the paint layer, the canvas and the lining canvas, leads to the conclusion that these are the nail or screw holes from when the painting was attached to the ceiling of the Mikhailovsky Palace in St Petersburg, shortly after its purchase by Tsar Paul I in 1800. The palace was abandoned after his assassination in 1801, and it is safe to conclude that the painting was taken down and repaired again for display soon after. These repairs to the holes can therefore be confidently dated to the first few years of the nineteenth century. When they were removed during the current treatment, it became evident that they covered another sequence  damages and repairs. In the top left corner, in a passage showing the pale blue sky, the 1801 nail-hole repairs covered a white-gesso and pale-blue restoration layer. Yet another layer beneath, an unsympathetic darker blue restoration paint, was found over lost areas of paint and priming layers. This suggests that by the turn of the eighteenth century – within the first sixty years of its existence – the painting had endured its most significant damage and perhaps three restoration treatments. This fate might be attributed to the perils of transporting such a large work of art (probably by horse and cart on unmade roads) from Venice over the Dolomites to Dresden, on to Amsterdam, and eventually to St Petersburg in its long, gradual trek north. The journey out of Venice in 1744 seems likely to have caused the first damage. With Tiepolo’s paint still partly wet, the painting appears to have been prepared for travel by being foldedinward on itself, with a fine cloth barrier preventing the two halves from coming into contact as they pressed against each other. This can be deduced from the condition of the painting through the centre, where an imprint of a fine fabric pressed into the wet paint can be seen (fig. 3). Folding is also suggested by the paint craquelure, which runs vertically and curls slightly outward, and by the occurrence of damages and losses distributed around a line down the centre.

The sequence of treatments suggest that the painting was given rudimentary repairs on its arrival in Dresden in 1744 and perhaps again some twenty years later in Amsterdam, where it was put up for auction in 1765. Another substantial restoration campaign is likely to have occurred between 1765 and 1800, when the painting was in the possession of the journeyman Italian art dealer Niccolò Leonelli, who eventually sold the work to Paul I.6 See J. Anderson, ‘The provenance of Tiepolo’s Banquet in Melbourne’ in Tiepolo’s Cleopatra, Melbourne, 2003. Apart from the repair of the screw holes, there are no signs of significant damage or subsequent restoration work from the nineteenth century onwards when the painting became part of the Hermitage collection. According to a report in the Times, the painting was cleaned and revarnished during its time in the Hermitage, probably sometime in the second half of the nineteenth century.7 ‘It is thought to have undergone restoration only once in the late eighteenth century’. Times, London, 24 June 1955.

The painting entered the collection of the NGV in 1932 in a less than perfect state, with the Observer commenting, as it left England, that the painting looked ‘dirty and unkempt … showing distinct signs of long neglect’.8 Observer, London, 16 June 1933. The painting was not cleaned prior to shipment to Australia, and no comment on its condition appears to have been raised on its arrival. Just over twenty years later the painting was requested for loan to the London Royal Academy Winter Exhibition of eighteenth-century art at Burlington House. Daryl Lindsay, the director of the NGV, was amenable to the loan and immediately took advantage of the opportunity to arrange for Horace Buttery, the restorer for the Royal Collection, to examine the painting with the thought to cleaning and relining it before the exhibition opening in November 1954. Their plans were thwarted by a strike at the docks in London which prevented Buttery from undertaking his major treatment until after the exhibition closed in December 1954.9 Both the journey to England in 1954 and the return journey in 1955 were made by ship, as was the journey to Melbourne in 1932. The painting has not left Australia since 1954 and has moved only the few kilometres between NGV sites in Melbourne.

In early 1955 the treatment finally commenced, with Buttery arranging to undertake it in a room of the Victoria and Albert Museum.10 Buttery’s treatment took three months and was carried out entirely by himself. The cost was £450 12s. Times, 23 June 1955. While this was being done, Lindsay and NGV paintings conservator Harley Griffiths were giving thought to a new frame to be made by the London frame maker Frederick Pollak. The previous frame, which was described in 1933 as ‘poor and dilapidated’ was not original to the painting.11 Archival documents tell us that the painting was sent to Dresden with a frame paid for by Count Algarotti on 10 February 1744. No records or evidence of this original framing of the painting have come to light. A photograph from the Argus, 9 July 1934, shows the painting in a nineteenth-century classical-revival frame of simple design, most likely the frame used for display at the Hermitage.

Lindsay and Pollak discussed several stylistic options, Pollak’s original plan was to make a frame similar in style to the one found on The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, c.1725, by Tiepolo’s contemporary, Giovanni Battista Pittoni, which hangs in the same gallery here in Melbourne, but Lindsay and Griffiths proposed a simpler design based on a seventeenth-century frame.12 Evidence for what this frame would have been like appears to be lost. In the end Lindsay and Griffiths left the decision to Pollak and Felton Adviser A. J. L. McDonnell, who decided on the frame Pollak had proposed, a variant of the early eighteenth-century Venetian, Canaletto-style frame,13 See P. Mitchell & L. Roberts, A History of European Picture Frames, London, 1996, p. 31. carved in timber, gilded and distressed.14 Letter from Daryl Lindsay to Frederick Pollak, 11 March 1955. The frame cost £350.

The restored painting and its new frame were ready for a brief display at the National Gallery in London between June and August 1955. Its reception, based on a single review in The Times, was one of qualified approval. The unnamed critic conceded that the cleaning

rendered the balustrade in the background and the figures behind it more conspicuous and more alive, and, above all, has accorded a clearer definition to the forms … given the composition a greater sense of space and air,  – but felt that some of the unity has been lost, and also some of the dramatic effect … there is a diminution in the impact of the hitherto isolated contrast, so very exciting and mysterious, between the dark silhouette of the strange attendant figure in the left foreground and the scene around the table.15 Times, London, 23 June 1955.

He concluded, however, that the cleaning was ‘done with reserve and tact’. No substantial critical accounts of the reception in Melbourne have come to light, though numerous anecdotes form part of the rich folklore surrounding The banquet.16 A report by Arnold Shore in the Argus, 27 October 1955, notes the return of the painting after ‘Expert cleaning has restored to the work … Dualities of light and detail which had been lost for years’. The piece makes mention of the value of the painting and a notion that the trustees of the National Gallery, London, were interested to exchange a great Rembrandt and a Turner for The banquet.

Reading more in the image

To begin the process of working on the painting, two primary documents were made: an ultraviolet photograph and an x-radiograph. Photography of paintings under ultraviolet light is mostly used for determining the state of degradation of the varnish and revealing restoration work (fig. 4).

Aged natural-resin varnish fluoresces a milky yellow-green and restorer’s retouchings usually appear darker in tone than the original paint. The photograph, taken before treatment, displays both of these features. It quickly identifies the main areas of repair in the painting: the outer edges and vertically through the centre of the image.

X-radiography is one of the most important tools for diagnosis of the structural condition of the painting and for examination of the artist’s painting technique. For the former it enables quick and comprehensive identification of areas where the original paint has been lost or damaged, and for the latter it gives a richly illustrative insight into the artist’s brush technique and aspects of the image which may have been changed or suppressed at a later stage of the painting process (pentimenti).

Two significant pentimenti were evident (fig. 5). The first was a compositional change with the architecture in the central passage. The x-radiograph shows that Tiepolo originally planned for the profile of the side buildings to intrude into the central passage of sky between the two pairs of columns (visible in the x-radiograph as shadowed areas by the columns); he later pushed them back, away from the central space and painted blue sky where they were originally intended. The earlier idea is present in a modello of a variant of The banquet in London, but Tiepolo decided – probably for the sake of removing visual clutter – to have a passage of undisturbed sky behind the central scene.

The other significant pentimento shows Tiepolo changing the position of the tail of Mark Antony’s Italian greyhound (figs 6 & 7). The dog, which is painted with Tiepolo’s unrivalled fluency, is modelled on a hound by Veronese in his Esther being led to Ahasuerus in the Uffizi in Florence. Veronese’s dog does not have a tail, sitting as it does on the border of the painting, and Tiepolo was left to create one of his own.The x-radiograph shows he tried two other positions for the tail before settling for the position we see, pulled up beside the dog’s rear leg.

No under-drawing was evident with infrared imaging, but there is evidence that Tiepolo painted his figures over simple, painted outlines. Just to the right of the peak of the blue figure’s hat is a dark tine evident through the pale paint of the column which suggests the head or hat was once intended to be slightly forward of its present position. There are other small areas of exposed lines in dark paint around the figures. Parts of the architecture appear to have been ruled in with incised lines – a technique common to Italian painting over many centuries and especially evident in the works of Tiepolo’s fellow Venetian contemporaries Canaletto and Bernardo Bellotto.

Reading the painting as a whole

While Buttery’s cleaning in 1955 took three months, the current treatment, occupying two people for twelve months, is more extensive. It can be broken down to four main stages: structural repair; removal of varnish and old restoration work; refilling of lost areas of paint; and varnishing-retouching. Structural repair is a primary step in the treatment of a painting and for The banquet it meant stabilising the abovementioned localised areas of loose and flaking paint, and making repairs to the tacking edge and stretcher.17 Consolidation of the flaking paint was carried out with aqueous fish glue. In its current state the painting is tacked onto an old but not original stretcher, probably dating from the nineteenth century. Attached to the reverse of Tiepolo’s original canvas is a lining canvas which we now

know to be over two hundred years old.18 The original support for the painting is a plain-weave linen canvas with a thread count of 7 threads per centimetre in both directions.The tacking edges remain, in part, on all sides – the painting has not been cut down. The fibre was identified by NGV textiles conservator Bronwyn Cosgrove using optical microscopy. It has been gently adhered to the original support, and, as a consequence, the paint surface has suffered remarkably little from the lining process.19 It is quite common to see flattened impost and surface texture on old paintings as a result of the heat and pressure formerly used to attach the lining canvas. We are therefore most fortunate to be able to see Tiepolo’s exhilarating flourishes of paint close to their original freshness. Serious consideration was given to whether the lining ought to be removed and replaced due to its age and ability to continue to support the painting through to the next treatment, well into the future. After weighing up all the factors, the lining was retained and reinforced by adding new fabric tacking edges for more secure attachment to the stretcher. A loose lining, a length of canvas attached to the stretcher behind the painting, was also put in place. This serves to maintain rigidity and acts as a buffer against vibration and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. These provisions, together with the continued maintenance of a sound museum environment and restricted movement of the painting, should extend the life of the old lining until the next treatment.

By the time the painting left the St Kilda Road building prior to the recent redevelopment, Buttery’s varnish and retouchings had aged.20 The deterioration of Buttery’s varnish and retouching in a relatively short time, by museum standards, was exacerbated by the excessive light levels from uncontrolled skylights in the second-floor galleries in the St Kilda Road building from 1968 to 1991. The deterioration of Buttery’s varnish and retouching in a relatively short time, by museum standards, was exacerbated by the excessive light levels from uncontrolled skylights in the second-floor galleries in the St Kilda Road building from 1968 to 1991 A common impression of the painting was that the chromatic and tonal values were dull because of discolouration of the varnish, and a slightly matte surface effect lent the image a more fresco-like appearance. The varnish applied in 1955 was a natural resin varnish commonly found on old master paintings. It was safely removed with a conventional mixture of organic solvents.21 The solvents used to remove  the varnish were acetone and mineral spirits. The effects of varnish discolouration were strikingly evident during the cleaning (fig. 8). Tiepolo’s famously vivid blues, whites and reds began to re-emerge and re-establish relationships of colour, tone and pictorial volume. The impact of rediscovering Tiepolo’s palette recalled comments made about the painting when it was first seen by English commentators in the early 1930s, A harmony of yellow, red and blue … a picture glowing with colour and full of vitality’,22 Esther Borough Johnson (British painter), 1 August 1933, correspondence in Felton Bequest files, 2/19, 1933. or Sir Robert Witt’s impressions:

The tonality is light and gay, the blue and scarlet dominating. The converging lines of black tiles lead up to the brilliant white of the tablecloth and thence to the creams and greys of the parapet and the light, delicate sky with fleecy clouds.23 Dated July 1931, Sir Robert Witt’s report is in the archives of the National Gallery in London (see Anderson, ‘The provenance of Tiepolo’s Banquet in Melbourne’).

Indeed, the yellow discolouration of the old varnish on the crisp white tablecloth had reduced the dramatic impact intended by Tiepolo. The cloth is the only passage of genuine white in the painting, and the aged varnish had the effect of setting the table back to an indistinct plane with the other features of the painting. The removal of discoloured varnish and old retouchings has reinstated the table’s compositional and visual significance, one of many scenographic devices used by the painter to lead the eye to the moment of Cleopatra dropping her pearl into the glass of vinegar (thereby dissolving it into the drink that will win her the wager).

After cleaning, attention was turned to removing previous restorers’ paint and old, filled losses. Much of this work had to be done using scalpels under high magnification to safely separate the restorations from Tiepolo’s paint layer. Once removed, these areas of damage and paint loss were refilled and textured to match the topography of the original paint (fig. 9).24 New fills were made with Modostuc, a water-soluble PVA-based filler. Surface texture was rebuilt on the new fills, and on the surface of old fills which were not able to be safely removed, with a Modostuc/Mowolith DM4 mixture applied by brush.

The final component of the treatment was varnishing and retouching. The type of varnish selected was a modified ketone resin called MS2A. This synthetic resin has many of the handling and optical characteristics of a traditional, natural-varnish resin, but is more stable. This varnish will discolour at a slower rate than will, for instance, dammar, extending the time before the painting will need to be cleaned again.

The final stage of the restoration process was inpainting or retouching, the process of reintegration of the lost or damaged parts of the image with the parts which remain intact. In the case of The banquet we are fortunate to have a painting in excellent condition with a very large proportion of the paint layer completely intact. Nevertheless, the sheer scale of the painting meant the task of making the old damages and paint losses less intrusive still required a substantial investment of time. The retouching was done using powder pigments mixed with a solution of the varnish resin.

The banquet in the studio

Examining The banquet of Cleopatra close up is to confront the reality of Tiepolo as a painter of extraordinary fluency and simplicity. The remarkable painterly effects which resonate throughout the work are not the result of the use of elaborate processes or rare materials. They are simply the product of a supremely confident painter applying commonly used practices and materials with enormous facility. Tiepolo’s ground layers, for instance, make use of a two-layered priming consisting of a buff-coloured imprimitura over a thick sienna-red-coloured ground. This application is found in many other Venetian paintings of the eighteenth century.25 For example, Bernardo Bellotto’s Ruins of the Forum, Rome, painted in Venice around the same time as The banquet and now hanging in the same gallery here in Melbourne. Analysis of the pigments in the paint layers has revealed Tiepolo’s palette: lead white and ultramarine in the sky; Prussian blue and ultramarine glazing in the cape of the standing figure on the left (fig. 10); Naples yellow was used in many of the passages of yellow drapery, white Mark Antony’s blazing red cloak was painted with vermilion and red take.26 Pigment analysis by EDS was performed by Deborah Lau, Analytical and Conservation Scientist, CSIRO MIT (Corrosion Science and Surface Design).

Cross-sections of paint samples show Tiepolo’s paint layers as quite direct applications of colour, usually with no more than two layers. As a painter whose greatest masterpieces were in fresco, some of the technical abbreviations found in fresco technique are discernable in The banquet, such as the predominance of thick, opaque layers, brisk application and the use of dark outline to delineate forms. In passages where Tiepolo turned, by glazing, to the particular richness of the oil medium, he did so not with gently applied veils, but with curls and swishes of a laden brush. This is no more evident than on the seated figure of Mark Antony, in the carmine-coloured plumage of his helmet or the darkest red folds of his scarlet cloak (fig. 11).

Tiepolo’s rich, colouristic effects are also due to his exploitation of colour and tonal contrast. This is perfectly illustrated by the enigmatic standing figure on the left, perhaps the most complex component of the entire painting. This figure is turned away from the viewer, half-lit, half-shaded and has parts of obscured figures sprouting from his sides. The shadow cast against him introduces an intriguing tonal complexity to an otherwise seemingly conventional, day-lit scene. The striking effect of his blue cape is augmented by the fact that it is contrasted against the warmer tones of the other figures and is the only deep blue of the entire painting. Tiepolo’s desire to single out this figure is also evident in his decision to emphasise his silhouette by brightening the off-white tone reflecting from the fluted column directly behind his face. The artist’s manipulation of tone to enhance the critical components of his visual construction are evident in the crucial central passages of the painting. Here, the architecture behind the table is painted in a deliberately muted tone, quite different from the rest of the architecture which is bathed in strong light. Conversely, the tablecloth where the glass of vinegar rests is brilliantly illuminated, drawing our eyes to the essential dramatic moment of the painting: Cleopatra’s victorious gesture.

A suitable home

Shortly prior to shipment to Australia in 1932, the painting was briefly displayed for public viewing in a decrepit exhibition space at the Imperial Institute in South Kensington, London. It is now hard to imagine the painting there, leaning sadly against a wall, but the journeys of a painting are often more complex and circuitous than we might believe. When a reviewer for the Spectator saw this magnificent work in such shabby surroundings he put forward a plea to the trustees of the Melbourne collection to make a decent home for the painting.27 ‘It is only to be hoped that the Trustees of the Melbourne Gallery will give it in its final resting place a setting, if not of rococo luxury, at least of respectable comfort.’ Spectator, 4 August 1933. He could not have known all of the picture’s restless history or have any particular knowledge of its future destination. From the initial change in the commission through the earliest years in the chateau at Hubertusburg, to being nailed to a ceiling in St Petersburg, the painting has in many ways been searching for a home. Its restoration and the redevelopment of the (Sir) Roy Grounds building in St Kilda Road has given Tiepolo another chance to make his point – for his extraordinary painting to relive its moment and for those who treasure it to see it for what it is.

John Payne, Senior Conservator of Paintings, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2004).

Carl Villis, Flora McDonald Anderson Conservator of Paintings, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2004).

Acknowledgements

From the beginning of this treatment we have had unqualified support from Ted Gott, Senior Curator of International Art, whose depth of scholarship and sense of humour have carried us forward. The project would not have gone ahead without the enthusiasm of Gerard Vaughan, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria. The time spent working on the picture has been enlivened by visits to the studio by Professor Jaynie Anderson, Head, School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology, the University of Melbourne, who unselfishly made available her research on the painting and contributed much to conversations in front of the work. A project of this scale has involved many colleagues outside the studio, in particular we acknowledge the photographic work of Narelle Wilson. Working on The banquet has demanded a great deal of patience from our colleagues Linda Waters and Michael Varcoe-Cocks and we thank them for their understanding and help. Lastly we owe Giambattista Tiepolo a debt of gratitude for leaving such an extraordinary piece of work to us all.

  

Notes

1     Daryl Lindsay, letter to Horace Buttery, 25 November 1955, in response to seeing The banquet after cleaning by Horace Buttery in London in 1954–55. National Gallery of Victoria, registry files.

2      The passage of unstable paint was caused by water damage from a leaking roof in the early 1960s in the old Swanston Street Gallery.

3      As a matter of protocol, the treatment proceeded only after the ratification of the project by the Chief Conservator; the Curator of International Art; the Deputy Director (International Art); and the Director.

4     Because of its importance, The banquet of Cleopatra is required for permanent public exhibition and these demands plus the imposing dimensions of the painting, and the sheer difficulty of moving it from the galleries, had prevented all but the briefest of examinations in the past.

5     The original commission for the painting is thought to have come from Joseph Smith, British consul in Venice. Before it was completed Tiepolo offered it to Count Algarotti for Augustus of Saxony.

6     See J. Anderson, ‘The provenance of Tiepolo’s Banquet in Melbourne’ in Tiepolo’s Cleopatra, Melbourne, 2003.

7      ‘It is thought to have undergone restoration only once in the late eighteenth century’. Times, London, 24 June 1955.

8     Observer, London, 16 June 1933.

9     Both the journey to England in 1954 and the return journey in 1955 were made by ship, as was the journey to Melbourne in 1932. The painting has not left Australia since 1954 and has moved only the few kilometres between NGV sites in Melbourne.

10      Buttery’s treatment took three months and was carried out entirely by himself. The cost was £450 12s. Times, 23 June 1955.

11     Archival documents tell us that the painting was sent to Dresden with a frame paid for by Count Algarotti on 10 February 1744. No records or evidence of this original framing of the painting have come to light. A photograph from the Argus, 9 July 1934, shows the painting in a nineteenth-century classical-revival frame of simple design, most likely the frame used for display at the Hermitage.

12     Evidence for what this frame would have been like appears to be lost.

13     See P. Mitchell & L. Roberts, A History of European Picture Frames, London, 1996, p. 31.

14     Letter from Daryl Lindsay to Frederick Pollak, 11 March 1955. The frame cost £350.

15    Times, London, 23 June 1955.

16     A report by Arnold Shore in the Argus, 27 October 1955, notes the return of the painting after ‘Expert cleaning has restored to the work … Dualities of light and detail which had been lost for years’. The piece makes mention of the value of the painting and a notion that the trustees of the National Gallery, London, were interested to exchange a great Rembrandt and a Turner for The banquet.

17     Consolidation of the flaking paint was carried out with aqueous fish glue.

18     The original support for the painting is a plain-weave linen canvas with a thread count of 7 threads per centimetre in both directions. The tacking edges remain, in part, on all sides – the painting has not been cut down. The fibre was identified by NGV textiles conservator Bronwyn Cosgrove using optical microscopy.

19     It is quite common to see flattened impost and surface texture on old paintings as a result of the heat and pressure formerly used to attach the lining canvas.

20      The deterioration of Buttery’s varnish and retouching in a relatively short time, by museum standards, was exacerbated by the excessive light levels from uncontrolled skylights in the second-floor galleries in the St Kilda Road building from 1968 to 1991.

21     The solvents used to remove the varnish were acetone and mineral spirits.

22     Esther Borough Johnson (British painter), 1 August 1933, correspondence in Felton Bequest files, 2/19, 1933.

23     Dated July 1931, Sir Robert Witt’s report is in the archives of the National Gallery in London (see Anderson, ‘The provenance of Tiepolo’s Banquet in Melbourne’).

24     New fills were made with Modostuc, a water-soluble PVA-based filler. Surface texture was rebuilt on the new fills, and on the surface of old fills which were not able to be safely removed, with a Modostuc/Mowolith DM4 mixture applied by brush.

25     For example, Bernardo Bellotto’s Ruins of the Forum, Rome, painted in Venice around the same time as The banquet and now hanging in the same gallery here in Melbourne.

26    Pigment analysis by EDS was performed by Deborah Lau, Analytical and Conservation Scientist, CSIRO MIT (Corrosion Science and Surface Design).

27     ‘It is only to be hoped that the Trustees of the Melbourne Gallery will give it in its final resting place a setting, if not of rococo luxury, at least of respectable comfort.’ Spectator, 4 August 1933.