Sebastiano del Piombo’s (1485-1547) Renaissance masterpiece Adoration of the Shepherds c.1510 was originally painted on a wooden panel. While owned by the Duc de Orléans in eighteenth century Paris, the paint layers were removed and transferred onto canvas, in a misguided attempt to preserve it. This caused widespread damage to the original paint and the composition was almost completely overpainted in subsequent attempts at restoration. Critical areas of the original paint remained intact and it was decided to remove all the old overpainting and bring the composition back to life by judicious and specialised restoration of the losses.
The study on artist’s painting technique through pigment analysis demonstrated Sebastiano’s sophisticated system of layering colours with the most precious pigments such as ultramarine and red lake. A close study of an early copy of Sebastiano’s original painting from The Louvre, Paris was also important source of information as well as use of live models, lay-figure and preparatory drawing. The crucial stage of restoration such as retouching the losses required a new way of approach, due to the condition of the painting, which could be called ‘line layering retouching’.
Conservator Youjin Noh, part of the restoration team at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge who undertook the mammoth task of the painting's restoration, will talk about the dramatic past of the painting and the details of restoration process undertaken to bring back the Adoration of the Shepherds to public view.
Youjin Noh holds a Master’s Degree in Painting Conservation from Sorbonne University (Maîtrise des Sciences et Techniques de Conservation – Restauration des Biens Culturels) in Paris as well as a Master’s Degree on Paper Conservation from the University of London. Prior to gaining her conservation qualifications, Youjin had studied Asian Arts at Ewha University in Seoul.
Youjin has previously worked at the Hamilton Kerr Institute of Cambridge University as painting conservator, undertaking the restoration of many works of national importance, including the Adoration of the Shepherds by Sebastiano del Piombo (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University). Youjin currently runs her own restoration studio in Hong Kong.