Anton Schranz’s Grand Harbour Scenes

Restoration cooperative Recoop outlines the conservation process of two exquisite paintings.
The painting of the view of Grand Harbour during cleaning treatment.

The breathtaking and captivating Grand Harbour inspired many artists to paint its towering bastions, the hustle and bustle of marine traffic and the crushing might of the sea, stirred by the notorious Grecale winds.

Two of these exquisite harbour scenes, by Anton Schranz (1769 – 1839), both signed and dated and belonging to the Cathedral Museum in Mdina, have recently been conserved and restored by conservation cooperative Recoop, thanks to the contribution of the Salvo Grima Group.

The two paintings consist of a stark contrast between a tranquil view of the Grand Harbour from Corradino Hill and another showing HMS Albion releasing its anchor in the sea just beyond Ricasoli point.

The waters of the harbour beyond Corradino Hill are immortalised by Schranz with a disarming stillness. However, this idyllic and hazy harbour scene is quickly and comically interrupted by a stalemate between a misbehaving goat and a shepherd’s dog, providing some sort of entertainment to the seemingly bored family of the vexed shepherd.

The 74-gun ship is flanked by a darting firilla, which passes closely by the shoreline, punctuated with fishermen struggling with the aches of their labour.

Both paintings were purchased by Count Saverio Marchese on September 21,1818, for 60 scudi each, and were eventually bequeathed, in accordance to his last will, to the Mdina Cathedral Chapter.

Both paintings had a varnish that had yellowed and started intruding with the legibility of the scenes. Moreover, the paintings had some lacunae spread across the paint layer, which needed to be consolidated and infilled with materials typically used for such treatments, widely tested throughout the years.

The paintings’ varnish and accumulated grime were safely removed by using a blend of mild solvents, which were enough for the vivid colours and minute details to re-acquire their lustre.

The painting of the view of the Grand Harbour from Corradino Hill had to undergo a lining procedure due to the weak state of its canvas, and its original auxiliary support/stretcher was upgraded by the implementation of expandable metal tensors at the corners.

The retouching treatment involved the use of reversible varnish base colours, and a final varnish with ultraviolet absorber was applied, prolonging and protecting the painting’s polychromy.

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