Bernardino Fungai, Scipio Africanus Takes Surrendered Captive King Syphax

Author Bernardino Fungai
Title Scipio Africanus Takes Surrendered Captive King Syphax
School Italy
Date Beginning of XVI century
Material Tempera, canvas
Workshop Paintings Conservation

A Siena artist Bernardino Fungai's painting Scipio Africanus Takes Surrendered Captive King Syphax was treated in the workshop in 2012. This piece is a pendant painting to The Continence of Scipio from the State Hermitage, which was conserved several decades ago. Thus, we had to work closely with our colleagues from the Hermitage.

The state of preservation of the Pushkin Museum's painting was very different from its pendant work, as in 1901 it was transferred to canvas by A.Sidorov, while the Hermitage painting remained on its original wooden base. Such radical interference with the structure of the piece resulted in numerous deformations, mechanical defects, and overlapping of paint layers' fragments. Besides that, In the process of transferring, the original primer was completely removed; that led to the texture of the canvas being visible on the surface of the painting which is uncharacteristic for tempera paintings. There were numerous overpaintings and darkened inpaintings from different times, which distorted the initial image. Inpaintins were especially plentiful in the areas along the cracks of the initial base.

A comprehensive study preceded the conservation treatments: UV- and IR-photography revealed the state of the original paint layer hidden under the overpaintings. The x-ray images were quite informative, as zinc white was used instead of the usual white lead while transferring the painting. The x-ray examination revealed numerous losses of the ground, in some places, they were quite large. Microchemical analysis, reflected light microscopy, histochemistry and IR-spectroscopy were used to study the primer and paint layers. As a result, it was confirmed that the original primer was removed and replaced with a new one, based on zinc white. The layering and pigment composition of some of the original paints and inpaintings were also studied. All the important stages of the conservation treatments were photographed (including macro- and microphotography).

During the treatments, the ground and paint layers were locally consolidated and cleaned of the late layers of darkened varnish, partial inpaintings and extensive overpaitnings. The old masticing largely covering the original painting were removed and smoothened, some were replaced, the losses were filled. The painting was varnished after which the paint losses were retouched with natural pigments; the losses of gilding were filled with gold paint.

After the conservation treatments the painting was ready to be exhibited.