Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece MoMA.org: The Museum of Modern Art Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece
IntroductionHistory of the PaintingAnalysis & Previous TreatmentsTreatment 2003/04Phase 1: Treatment AnalysisPhase 2: CleaningPhase 3: RetouchingAsk The ConservatorGlossaryBibliographyConservation Home

Photo of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in the Painting and Sculpture gallery of the new Museum
Treatment 2003/04
Phase 3: Retouching

Paint LossOnce the coatings and old restoration materials have been removed, an informed decision can be made about any rerestoration that may be necessary [Please see Conservator's Update January 2005 for the decision on these treatments]. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon will undoubtedly require some minimal restoration in areas where original paint has been lost, such as the previously restored tear and the cracks caused by rolling [see: Vertical Cracks]. These areas will require filling of the losses and inpainting to match the surrounding paint. The same approach will be taken with the scattered minor losses [see: Paint Loss] and a series of old tack holes on the edges (originating from either the previous stretcher or framing assembly) [see: Tack Holes]. The edges of the painting will need stabilization, as the old paper tape from the glue lining surrounding the edges has become torn in places, revealing the cropped canvas edges [see: Paper Tape Glue Residue]. Where restoration of paint losses is required, a fill material that is distinguishable from the original ground will be Samples of Tack Holes; samples of Paper Tape Glue Residue on Canvas Edge used. Any necessary inpainting will be done with colorfast pigments in a synthetic binder that will be easily reversible should the painting require treatment in the future. Any decision to revarnish the painting will be made in consultation with the Museum's curators, but it is anticipated, based on testing and experience gained from similar treatments of other paintings in MoMA's collection, that the painting can remain unvarnished for a more appropriate appearance, allowing Picasso's considerable technical prowess and vision to be fully appreciated.

Final Update January 2005

The restoration has been completed with the inpainting of losses and cracks which resulted from the rolling of the canvas while still in Picasso’s possession. The conservator used a combination of Winsor & Newton watercolor and conservation paints formulated by Gamblin that are synthetic-resin based. Both these processes are easily reversible if necessary. The pigments contained in these paints are similar to Picasso’s palette. Restoration paints were applied only to areas of loss, with the color and gloss adjusted to mimic the character of Picasso’s aged oil paint. Matching the color to immediately surrounding paint caused the minor damages to disappear at a normal viewing distance. With close scrutiny under strong light or under ultraviolet illumination, these minor additions can be easily distinguished. The painting has not been revarnished, in keeping with Picasso’s intention that the paint surface retain its natural variation in matte and gloss. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon will now require only occasional brushing with a badger-hair blender to keep the surface free of dust.

The painting is now displayed in a new, more substantial frame, replacing the simple white frame in which the painting had been most recently shown. In this new frame, nearly the entire painted surface is visible. As Picasso painted the image right up to the very edge of the canvas in many places, displaying as much of the canvas as possible is important. The frame design was inspired by a Spanish-style profile using a white gold leaf finish that has been selectively antiqued.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is now installed in the fifth floor galleries, flanked by two other Picasso paintings: Woman Plaiting Her Hair from 1906 and Head of a Sleeping Woman from 1907.


Pictured at top with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon:

Pablo Picasso. Two Nudes. Late 1906. Oil on canvas, 59 5/8 x 36 5/8" (151.3 x 93 cm). Gift of G. David Thompson in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. © 2005 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso. Woman Plaiting Her Hair. Late summer or fall 1906. Oil on canvas, 50 x 35 3/4" (127 x 90.8 cm). Florene May Schoenborn Bequest. © 2005 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso. Head of a Sleeping Woman. Summer 1907. Oil on canvas, 24 ¼ x 18 ¾” (61.4 x 47.6 cm). Estate of John Hay Whitney. © 2005 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Copyright 2003 The Museum of Modern Art