'Dante's Dream' today

Photograph of a stretcher, description follows

This image shows what is called a "blind" stretcher. This is a normal wooden stretcher with inset wooden panels. These provide extra protection from environmental damage. It also minimises any vibration that may occur if the painting travels.

In 2003 the painting was examined in preparation for the Rossetti exhibition. Today it is in a good stable condition, with no evidence of any reoccurrence of past problems.

The painting is on a coarse canvas and has been lined onto a slightly coarser, unprimed canvas, with the original tacking margins removed. There are two sets of tack holes, presumably relating to when it was removed from the stretcher during the Second World War.

The canvas tension is adequate and there are no planar distortions such as bulges across the canvas. The canvas appears a little uneven in some areas. This is possibly a result of poor adhesion between the lining and the original canvas.

The edge of the original, where the turnover has been cut off, has been filled and retouched around all edges of the painting. The largest area affected by this overpaint is along the top edge in the central area (below), where the overpaint covers up to 5cm of the original.

Photograph showing overpaint

It is unclear whether this covers damaged original or not. In this central area of overpaint, a pinkish hue has been added to the top of the small area of visible sky. We cannot say when this was done as it is not mentioned in any earlier reports.

The painting was lined quite soon after it was finished and there are occasional marks in the paint which do not appear to relate to the visible paint, or to paint layers below. It is probable that these are a result of the painting being lined on a slightly uneven surface.

Rossetti reworked the painting 10 years after its original completion. The angel and Beatrice's hands appear to have been reworked and there is a pentiment (an area where the artist altered the composition) above the angel's head.

Detail showing pentiment of the hands

This reworking has lead to instability in the paint layer, but these no longer cause a problem.

Areas of drying cracks appear where the paint is thicker and Rossetti reworked the original. One such area is Beatrice's hair, which was reworked several years later.

In places there is evidence that there may have been glazes over the visible paint layer, which have been removed at an early point in the painting's history. For example the lips of the right pall-bearer (below).

Detail showing a closeup of a pair of lips

There are some age cracks in the painting, which seem to be concentrated in the flesh. The cracks are often vertical and probably appeared as a result of the painting being rolled.

Finally, the painting has a thick, waxy varnish layer, with a fairly uniform matt sheen.