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The Restoration History of Holbein's 'The Ambassadors'

Martin Wyld
Technical Bulletin Volume 19, 1998


The construction of the panel from 10 vertical planks, and their dendrochronological dating, are described. Holbein's technique and his choice of pigments and media are given in detail. Then the 1891 restoration of The Ambassadors, which involved planing down the panel and providing a cradle, is described, with the subsequent damage that the panel sustained in changing environmental conditions.

Photographs illustrate the yellowing and opacification of the varnish from then to recent times. The 1891 restoration was reversed while retaining most features of earlier restorations. The conservation treatments carried out are described in detail, in particular the image analysis which was done to determine the correct form of the anamorphic skull in the foreground.


artists' materials, dendrochronology, Hans Holbein the Younger, painting techniques, panel (wood), previous interventions

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The Restoration History of Holbein's 'The Ambassadors', Martin Wyld (PDF 23.96MB)

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Wyld, M. 'The Restoration History of Holbein's "The Ambassadors"'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 19, pp 4–25.

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