Nine months of restoration
The picture underwent restoration in 2007, lasting about nine months. In actual fact, the picture is very well preserved considering its age. The Museum’s decision to restore it anyway was on account of certain aesthetic problems. The surface was disfigured by a heavily yellowed and opaque varnish as well as old, discoloured overpainting from earlier restoration work.
Reconstruction of lost paint
For yet unknown reason, a few small areas of paint were rather more damaged than the surrounding paint layer. This applies to the blue angel’s hand for example, where most of the original paint was lost. During an earlier restoration, most likely during the 18th century, the hand was overpainted with oil paint (fig. 8). This old restoration, shown in the detail below here, was carefully executed with a reddish underpaint, but as regards both colour and expression, it was far from Mantegna’s own technique. As one could also observe through the microscope that fragments of the original colour were concealed underneath (fig. 9, the hand after cleaning), the Museum’s conservators decided to remove the overpainting and reconstruct the hand on the basis of the preserved remains.
See the difference between the hand after cleaning and before reconstruction here:
The purpose of the restoration has not been to make the picture look like new. One can still see that it is a 500-year-old painting. But the cleaning off of the varnish and removal of the old restoration and overpainting have brought the colours, their mutual balance and contrasts closer to what they were when Mantegna painted the picture.