Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece MoMA.org: The Museum of Modern Art Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece
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Treatment 2003/04
Phase 1: Treatment Analysis

Paint BlisteringThe combined results of examination methods, including X-radiography; normal, raking, and transmitted light; and examination with infrared and ultraviolet light, have extensively documented Picasso's materials and techniques and will inform the treatment plan as well. For example, examination of the painted surface under magnification has revealed paint-layer defects as well as evidence of past restorations—that is, accretions of glue [see: Glue Residue] and wax [see: Wax Residue] Glue Residueand localized areas of blistering paint [see: Paint Blistering] where the heat and moisture from the glue lining caused deformations in the paint layer. The discolored coatings of wax and synthetic resin have exaggerated these types of conditions, especially where the paint, softened by the lining procedure, conforms to the weave of the canvas and causes a pattern visible on the surface. Accumulated grime and discolored varnish, combined with Wax Residuediscolored restoration materials on the surface, has caused the overall surface of the painting to look hazy and unsaturated, interfering with Picasso's true palette. Previous inpainting, now more than fifty years old, has become discolored and no longer matches surrounding original paint. Aged varnish lends the painting a uniform surface lacking in nuance and, in combination with the lining, conspires to give Les Demoiselles d'Avignon a laminated appearance. At the same time, the now visually disruptive retouches break the forms of the figures and background and thus diminish their essential power and confidence of execution.

Pictured at top:
Conservator Michael Duffy examining the painting under magnification.

Copyright 2003 The Museum of Modern Art