Giovanna Tamà is an independent conservator specializing in Old Masters. Join us inside the The Phoebus Foundation restoration studio as she unveils her captivating work on various projects, including the restoration treatment of Prometheus Bound. Let’s take a look behind the layers of paint together!

Giovanna while retouching

“One of my projects is the restoration of a painting by the studio of Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), Prometheus Bound. A larger-scale depiction by Jordaens with the same subject and composition from around 1640 is currently in the collection of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. It was common for Jordaens’ large and successful studio to produce reproductions of pre-existing compositions by the grand master.

Jordaens like to paint mythological and allegorical scenes, alongside genre scenes. In this particular artwork, he portrays the tale of Prometheus, who faced the wrath of Jupiter. His punishment involved the constant torment of having his liver pecked at by the supreme god’s eagle. This cruel fate befell Prometheus for daring to bring fire to men.

Over the years, the painting has already undergone some restoration treatments. It was given a new carrier and has been lined. In this old restoration, the edges of the canvas were cut off, so a small piece of the composition was lost.”

Studio of Jacob Jordaens, Prometheus Bound, c.1640-1645 (before treatment)

“The painting was not in the best condition. Over time, it had taken on a highly darkened and soiled appearance as the varnish had yellowed greatly. To hide wear and paint loss, large areas of the original paint were carelessly painted over in the past. Numerous unnecessary accentuations were also added to the bodies of Prometheus and Mercury (figure above right).”

Detail of non-original accentuations

“During the removal of the varnish, the old retouching and overpainting, the original colors were restored to their glory. The details came back to light, and we could finally see the painting technique. After cleaning, an isolating varnish was applied to create a barrier between the original paint layer and the restorer’s interventions.”

During varnish removal

Currently, Giovanna is working on the final stage of treatment. The next step is to fill and retouch the gaps in order for the painting to receive a final varnish.

After filling, before reoutching