Self Portrait of P.P. Rubens sent off for restoration

The Self-portrait of P.P Rubens is being restored. The masterpiece with iconic value rarely leaves its place. But has been sent to Brussels where it is being restored by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage.

Restoration in a world-renowned workshop

In January 2017 the restoration of the Peter Paul Rubens Self-Portrait and Dul Gret by Pieter Bruegel the Elder gets underway.  The restoration of the paintings will take approximately one year and will be done in phases. The restoration is being carried out by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA, Brussels). The workshop has a world-wide reputation – amongst others thanks to the restoration of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

Technical examination

First the restorers give the painting a technical examination – with amongst others dendrochronology (the scientific discipline which consists of dating wooden objects) and a pigment analysis –then work on the restoration can commence. A first guiding principle for this is the data made available by experts.

Previous examination

The Conservation Department of the National Gallery in London examined the Rubens Self-portrait in 2014. At the time they discovered that the current layer of varnish on the portrait had been composed in a very complex manner and needed to be removed in a similarly meticulous manner. The results of this examination possibly provide further insight into Rubens’ painting technique and the construction of the panel.

Even though Rubens was an exceptionally meticulous craftsman in every domain, he had the habit of making the panels for paintings that he made for himself – such as landscapes and family portraits – out of different planks of wood. As a result these panels are particularly fragile, which has inevitable consequences for conservation. So these works are difficult to transport.  Every join represents a potential risk. The Self-portrait has also been made from several panels.


Back in 2018

The Self-portrait will return to the spotlight in 2018. In 2018 the Self-portrait will be the centrepiece of the Baroque year. In this way Antwerp honours its most famous inhabitant and its Baroque cultural heritage as Rubens enters the city in full regalia as the host of this cultural festival.