An exciting discovery

Sometimes things are not what they seem. This goes for the painting The young Bacchus, a long-term loan from the Limburgs Geschied- en Oudheidkundig Genootschap, which has been in the Bonnefanten collection for many years. In the painting, we see the Roman god of wine depicted as a little boy. He is surrounded by several figures of which one of them wears a bright blue gown. In 2020, SRAL - The Conservation Institute restored the work thoroughly. Right at the beginning of the treatment, it turned out that parts of the work had been painted over. When conservator Gwendoline Fife removed the overpainting, she came across many secrets which were covered by layers of paint and varnish for centuries. Previously invisible plants came to light, just as two additional figures in the far left and right. These men are cut off by the edge of the canvas. These surprising discoveries led to the conclusion that the work must have been cut out of a larger painting. When and why this is done, is unclear. The depiction itself also raises many questions. Who are the figures around Bacchus? Which story is depicted here? To answer these questions, more art historical research needs to be done. For now, the restoration is completed. The painting is on display in our permanent collection and can be admired again.

Gerard de Lairesse (toegeschreven aan), Jonge Bacchus (voor restauratie), eind 17de - begin 18de eeuw, olieverf op doek, 81.6 x 73.6 cm, Collectie Bonnefanten, langdurig bruikleen LGOG. Fotograaf: Peter Cox.
Gerard de Lairesse (attributed to), The young Bacchus (before restoration), late 17th - early 18th century, oil on canvas, 81.6 x 73.5 cm, Collection Bonnefanten, long term loan LGOG. Photographer: Peter Cox

Gerard de Lairesse (toegeschreven aan), Jonge Bacchus (na restauratie), eind 17de - begin 18de  eeuw, olieverf op doek, 81.6 x 73.6 cm, Collectie Bonnefanten, langdurig bruikleen LGOG, Fotograaf: Peter Cox.
Gerard de Lairesse (attributed to), The young Bacchus (after restoration), late 17th - early 18th century, oil on canvas, 81.6 x 73.5 cm, Collection Bonnefanten, long term loan LGOG. Photographer: Peter Cox