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Detail of hands during cleaning

Detail of hands from the painting during cleaning, covered in a darker layer of discoloured varnish and overpaint

Detail taken during cleaning, showing where the painting was retouched when it was conserved in the 1950s

Once all the varnish had been removed, the spots of old retouching were even more obvious. They were applied to match an already discoloured varnish and during time they also became discoloured.

They had been added during a previous restoration to cover up what may have been considered flaws or blemishes in the paint surface, including the sometimes prominent brushstrokes of underlying paint, for example the ridge of paint across the wrist.

In fact these ‘blemishes’ are very much part of Gainsborough's distinctive painting style, which previous generations may have thought looked unfinished or messy.

Detail of the hands after cleaning, showing the original pale flesh tones

Detail after cleaning, with overpaint removed