DescriptionMAXFIELD PARRISH (American 1870 - 1966)
The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Murals, a pair, 1912-1916
South Wall Reception Room A and South Wall Reception Room B, 1916
Oil on canvas
63-3/4 x 74in. (each)
Note: for additional information, review the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Mural letters (51 pages total).
Estimate: $2,000,000 - $4,000,000.
MAXFIELD PARRISH MURALS CONSERVATION HISTORY The mural series was installed between 1914 and 1918. We believe that at a later date possibly in the early twenties, the mural was coated with resin varnish with a tone in it, but not by Maxfield Parrish. It is possible that Robert Chanler, a friend of Mrs. Whitney, who was in the house working on the other wall decorations on the second floor, could have toned the murals. Evidence is very clear that the mural was restored between 1920s and the early 1980s. At the later date, the Metropolitan Museum conservators cleaned the murals and in-painted areas. This was no doubt because of the darkening of the resin varnish layer and the soot from the fireplace. It is also believed that the mural was periodically cleaned, especially the large mural, because it resided on the wall above a fireplace that was in constant use. Cleaning tests were evident in the murals upon site visits which took place on May 5, 1999 by the Alan M. Farancz Painting Conservation Studio. There are a number of large cleaning tests on the South Wall Reception Room B through the seated figures. These tests actually removed all of the layers including the 1920s vanish. There is also evidence of water damage to the wall opposite the doorway (East Wall Reception Room A and B circa 1914). Both of the murals that flanked the window as well as the floral section above the window had been repeatedly affected by water seepage and drips. There is documentary evidence that the dimensions given to Mr. Parrish were wrong. This caused adjustments during the installation. A seventy-year-old mural that has never been cleaned would indeed be rare. There is no photographic or written documentation on the former treatments available. The surface materials as well as the original materials were examined in cross-section. Samples were taken for chemical microscopy to determine their solubility parameters. This was performed to develop the materials to remove all post historic layers. The analysis revealed that the initial varnishing of the mural was performed before the murals were cleaned and that there are carbon particles incorporated in the matrix. The various restorations and work carried out over the years has caused the raised surface nubs to be abraded in areas throughout the mural. Ultra violet and infra red examination of the surface indicated that there were scattered areas of former retouching throughout the surface. Ultra violet examination under the microscope indicated that the layer of darkened tone from the twenties was on top of a good portion of the abrasions. This former in-painting was performed with artists' oil paint in a natural resin material. The layers of post historic material (except for the 1920s resin layer) were removed with a solvent soap mixture that did not affect the original paint layers. Even the various pink, red, and orange color passages were not affected by the mixture. There was evidence that during one of the previous restorations some of the color areas were found to be incorporated in the layers on top of the adjacent color passages. The original paint layer is very sound as it appears as though there was never any flaking. There are some areas of traction cracking from the original drying of the paint layer, which is not untypical of Parrish's technique. The murals were flattened and relaxed with moisture and pressure using weights and blotters. The murals were lined to a new piece of linen canvas with BEVA 371 film. The lined murals were stretched on new redwood stretchers. The murals were given a thin brush coat of Acryloid B72. Any paint losses were filled with Sherwin Williams C-50 putty to the level of the surface and sealed with AYAA ethanol. The areas of abrasion and loss were in-painted with Maimeri Conservation colors in Acryloid B722 varnish medium. A final protective varnish of Acryloid B67 was applied by spray. TREATMENT (performed by Alan M. Farancz Painting Conservation Stuio from 1998 to May 10, 1999) The murals were removed from the original site. To facilitate this, they were superficially cleaned to remove dust and dirt. An isolating varnish of Acryloid B72 was applied to the surface by brush. The murals were then faced with Japanese Mulberry tissue, and a special paste was used as the adhesive. A layer of muslin was attached to the Japanese tissue facing with paste. There were four inches of extra muslin all along the sides of the mural sections that was left to secure the mural to the Sonotube. The two mural sections East Wall Reception Room A and East Wall Reception Room B (both installed in 1914), as well as the section above the window were rolled off the wall using a Sonotube. The murals were separated along the edges with a specially fabricated spring steel spatula. This worked very well and there was very little damage incurred to the murals fabric. The remaining murals were intended to be removed in the same manner. Unfortunately the original installation process had changed as each section was installed. It is believed that the room had been painted prior to the installation, and that to reinforce the attachment of the murals, small holes were put into the wall so that the adhesive would grip better. One of the murals had been partially removed from the wall after attachment and a second layer of adhesive was applied. The detachment of the remaining murals from the wall was performed with the murals flat, not rolled from the wall. It was originally attached with a white lead adhesive. The murals were removed from the site to the Manhattan studio. All of the residues on the verso of the canvas (brown coat, plaster, and white lead) were removed. The protective facing layers were removed from the paint layer. The canvas was in very good condition with only minor tears along the edge. There were a number of small holes scattered in the canvas which were probably the result of the installation process to release air pockets. South Wall Reception Room A and South Wall Reception Room B
The mural is oil on canvas, attached to the wall with a white lead adhesive above molding to the ceiling. The canvas is in sound condition. The surface contains dirt, gritty soot, and carboniferous grime. The murals were located above a fireplace and there is residue from smoking of tobacco incorporated into the grime layer. There are layers of varnish that are not from Maxfield Parrish. The original paint layer is in excellent condition. Ultra violet examination reveals that there has been more than one previous restoration. Examination under the microscope indicated that a layer of darkened tone from the twenties was on top of a good portion of the abrasions. This former in-painting was performed with artist's oil paint in a natural resin material. The layers of post historic materials were removed with a solvent mixture that had no affect on the original paint layers. The various pink, red, and orange color passages were not affected by the solvent mixture. The various restorations and work carried out over the years has caused the raised surface nubs to be abraded in areas throughout the mural. This was no doubt because of the darkening of the resin varnish layer and the soot from the fireplace. Examination of a cross-section of the murals indicated that the layer of resin varnish that lies on the four small mural sections contains carbon particles that probably came from the fireplace. The UV light shows areas of lighter and darker reflectance that translates into different time periods of restoration. It is known that the Metropolitan Museum conservation staff worked on the murals in the early 1980s. There are also indications that Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's friend, Robert Chanler, a muralist, had worked on them in the 1920s. The saturation level of the light indicates that the darker spots are of a more recent restoration. UV photography was only carried out on two paintings to demonstrate the condition of all the murals. The outside edges of the perimeter of the canvases contain areas of abrasion, some small tears and restoration from the installation where the murals were joined up. There are some losses along the left edge of the canvas. The former restoration includes glazing to reinforce the shading on the stone ledge that some of the figures are sitting on. Some Outline of clothing was heightened. The blue sky areas (South Wall Reception Room A) have had paint nubs abraded from former cleaning or wiping. In this set, there was cosmetic compensation done to the sky and figures in the South Wall Reception Room A, the tree and figures in the South Wall Reception Room B. The glaze on the faces was reinforced, as well as all of the dark lines. South Wall Reception Room A has added a strip of canvas where the mural didn't fit the entire wall. The sky contains abrasion of the nubs from former cleaning. The former cleaning in the figures is quite evident in the photographs. The UV photo of the South Wall Reception Room B shows the lines reinforced in the central figure. The small section over the doorway was very damaged and has been extensively retouched.
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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