The beast with five fingers


Dummy boards were painted images meant to be propped up in a room to make the occupants feel they were not alone. This one is probably of a female servant and came to us with the Roger Warner bequest. At some time before she was acquired for Temple Newsam she had lost a hand and it was replaced with this hideous attempt. We all know hands are tricky to draw, but you would have thought whoever did it might have made a bit more effort. The fingernails were very crudely drawn in pencil. Options for treatment were discussed with curatorial staff – it was felt that the sheer ugliness of the old retouching was obtrusive and should be removed and re-done. It is rare that this amount of anatomical reconstruction is required in the treatment of an oil painting – most inpainting is carried out on very tiny losses. I had been attending a evening class in life drawing which honed some skills in observational drawing which proved very useful. After careful cleaning, a more anatomically correct hand was painted in acrylic, and varnished. She is now on display in the House in one of the new refurbished rooms.

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