Examination of the breastplate
Is the breastplate still silver underneath all the brown overpaint?
Small cleaning tests in the breastplate revealed an extremely high level of paint loss with only fragments of original paint surviving. Infra-red reflectography also helped to assess the amount of loss.
Detail of crazed yellow glaze on the breastplate
Examination of the cleaned area with low magnification revealed the remains of a red bole layer and a white metal which was confirmed to be silver by EDX. This was covered by a thick and crazed yellow glaze which is almost certainly original and was probably intended to imitate gold. The top layers, including the silver, are prone to flake away from the bole layer and it seems that poor technique is the reason for the heavy paint losses in these areas. Put simply, one layer did not stick very well to the layer beneath.
Detail of yellow design on the chest
What else do the cleaning tests show?
As well as the silver leaf, a yellow design is painted around the bottom of the breastplate and fragments of the same yellow were found at the chest. The overpaint on the breastplate is in several layers, the lowest being extremely old and very difficult to remove so only a small part of the design could be uncovered.
In the face and the blue skirt there is only a single layer of overpaint and this reflects the relatively good condition of these areas. The overpaint covering the lower part of St Michael’s face is a clumsy attempt to hide the diagonal damage across his mouth.
A larger area of overpaint was removed from the right wing and cloak which confirmed that the red cloak is in fairly good condition but the feathers are more damaged.
Detail of cleaning test on right wing and cloak