hermitage museum foundation

Joshua Reynolds


The Paintings:

These three Joshua Reynolds’ paintings are among the most valuable pieces in the Hermitage’s collection of English paintings. One of the distinguishing features of Reynolds’ work is his use of organic painting materials. As a result of this choice of materials his paintings are prone to deterioration, and the preservation of his work at the Hermitage and other museums presents unique challenges. Our goal is to do a comparative analysis of the technique used in all the Reynolds paintings in the collection, with special emphasis on the organic materials. The information gained from this study will be used to restore the Hermitage paintings, as well as adding to the world database of scientific knowledge of the paintings of Joshua Reynolds.

The History:

Reynolds is one of the most important British artists of the 18th century, and one of the founders and first Presidents of the Royal Academy. He was knighted by King George III in 1769.

The three paintings “Cupid Untying the Zone of Venus,” “The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpents,” and “The Continence of Scipio of Africa” date from 1788, shortly before the loss of sight in his left eye forced Reynolds to retire. The three paintings are exquisite models of his “Grand Style” of painting, which was heavily influenced by the Old Masters and emphasized an idealization of the imperfect.


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