Peter Paul Rubens, Self-Portrait, Rubenshuis, Antwerp.

Restoration of the Rubens Self Portrait

The Self Portrait by Rubens that graces the Rubens House is being restored. Visitors wishing to view the painting should do so by 7 September 2014. The work will again be on display in 2015 as part of the exhibition Rubens in Private: The Master Portrays His Family, after which it will resume its usual place in the gallery. Before the exhibition, the Self Portrait will be examined and if necessary restored at the National Gallery in London.

Rubens' Self Portrait is one of the Rubens House's most notable paintings. It is of iconic value to Antwerp and rarely leaves the museum. The painting will soon be restored for the upcoming exhibition Rubens in Private. The master portrays his family, which offers a glimpse of Rubens as his family's portraitist.

The restoration

First, the work will undergo an extensive technical investigation. The results of that study may provide greater insight into Rubens' technique and the panel's construction. Though Rubens was extremely careful and competent in every aspect of his craft, he had the habit of constructing the panels for his personal paintings - such as landscapes and family portraits - from multiple pieces of wood. As a result, the panels are more fragile than usual, which has inevitable consequences for their conservation. For example, the works are difficult to transport; every joint is a potential risk. The Self Portrait is also composed of multiple boards. The scientific investigation will shed useful light on the painting's construction so that the Conservation Department can decide on what kind of treatment, if any, may be advisable.

The Conservation Department at the National Gallery is famed for its skill. The studio previously restored the Portrait of Margareta van Eyck on display in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges.

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