Sunday in Rachol
Early this morning we had a wonderful Mass for Juliet Burnand, one of Christopher’s sisters, who died peacefully in her sleep on Friday morning. The Mass was celebrated by the Rector, the Very Reverend Aleixo Menezes and all the seminarians were in attendance in the Seminary Church. It was very moving to have so many pray with us in such a beautiful and spiritual place. After breakfast with the priests we went back to the cleaning of the painting of ‘King Sebastian’
We can now also see his army which is appearing slowly in the cleaning of the background. We are starting to piece together the history of the painting with the discovery of several types of patches and glues on the back, then different natural varnishes and uneven coats of resins on the front. These are possibly due to previous over cleaning in certain areas (hence the cover up of the garrison in the background with thick dammar), but also an attempt to unify the surface and to disguise the craquelure using shellac. All of this has been applied heavily, resulting in unevenness due to the siccatives (drying agents) in the binder which has pulled the paint layers in some areas whilst drying. Other types of craquelure are identifiable such as snail, ageing, and stretching.
It is only possible to analyse all this once the painting is down and properly examined. The sheer size, weight and precariousness had not allowed us to have the painting brought down before the conservation programme. All the paintings are examined in situ.
Today was Sunday, and despite it being the week-end we had all the European volunteers arrive to help, so there were five sets of hands working in cleaning the painting. Each person works on a different part of the painting – Joanna focuses on the armorial shield and the putto’s cloth, Sheila is working on the small soldiers and horses in the background which make up the army, Caecilie is set to work on the main horse and Frances is busy consolidating along the old tear to ensure that this is stable. Together we make good progress and by the end of the day we can start to see a real difference.
Caecilie leaves us mid-afternoon to head back to Copenhagen via Mumbai and Amsterdam. The other three leave after a good day’s work, and C and I finally leave at around 6. It’s been a long day, and we head back to Panjim on a different route to avoid the Sunday evening traffic. Tomorrow we are back in the Archbishop’s Palace with yet more paintings which need our love and attention.