Hidden Pictures – Albrecht Dürer and a Discovery (1471-1528)

Paper Conservator, Amy Junker Heslip, continues to reflect on some of the objects that have passed through her hands for conservation treatments and exhibition preparation.

This week I have been missing doing some practical conservation work and nothing beats the feeling of an exciting discovery!

In 2018 I was carrying out some routine conservation treatments on our collection of Albrecht Dürer prints.

A small print had been historically mounted on a larger supporting paper. However, it was poorly mounted causing buckling and creasing to the print and so it was thought beneficial for the print to be separated. After documentation and treatment planning and then testing the ink for water sensitivity (and gently surface cleaning the print and support paper), I humidified and immersed the print in a bath of warm water.

The Last Supper by Albrecht Durer

After just a few minutes the paste layer softened in the water bath and the two sheets began to separate to reveal the most wonderful surprise in the supporting sheet below.

Durer discovery water wash

The supporting sheet revealed a stunning pencil sketch of a stallion being attacked by two dogs, one dog at the stallion’s head and the other dog behind the stallion’s back legs.

Horse and two Dogs, artist unknown

We still need further research to find out if this is an undiscovered masterpiece, but for now this is safely housed in our fine art, prints and drawing store.

Find out more about Albrecht Dürer

Amy Junker Heslip, Paper Conservator

2 Responses

  1. J G L Tolley

    Fascinating! The Last Supper I can see in 3D, not the disciples but their surroundings. Can you tell the age of the pencil sketch? I have come across a painting od a horse being attacked by a hound. Is the sketch perhaps mythical?
    Best wishes,
    Julia

  2. Amy Junker Heslip

    Hi Julia,
    Thank you for your comments. We really haven’t had a chance to do any research into the sketch yet. To me this support paper seems also to be 15th century but I am not sure about the sketch itself- just the paper. I think it was quite common for (Victorian) collectors to trim down prints and stick them on to different supports and put them in albums so this backing paper could be from something else entirely. I do like to imagine though, that it is an original Durer sketch but I guess I will have to wait a bit longer to find out.
    With best wishes,
    Amy

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