Restoration of the Portrait of Empress Eleonore, Castle Hrádek near Nechanice, Czech Republic

 do tabulky eleonora

Národní památkový ústav – správa Státního zámku Hrádek u Nechanic, 503 15 Nechanice 
Description of work:
Restoration of the Portrait of Empress Eleonore 
National Heritage Institute – Regional specialist site Pardubice
Contractor: GEMA ART GROUP a.s.



Restoration of the Portrait of Empress Eleonore - before restoration Restoration of the Portrait of Empress Eleonore - before restoration Restoration of the Portrait of Empress Eleonore - before restoration Work in progress The Portrait of Empress Eleonore - after restoration The Portrait of Empress Eleonore - after restoration

  • History
  • Restoration work
  • More information

Castle Hrádek near Nechanice was built by the aristocratic Harrach family, who purchased the property in 1829. The history of the estate, nevertheless, goes much farther back. The first written mention of a settlement called Hrádek appears in 1377 and it can be presumed that a fortified keep was a part of it. After 1412, when Hrádek became part of the nearby town of Nechanice, its importance diminished.
The building of the current castle, intended as a summer residence, was for the most part the decision of the Count František Arnošt Harrach. The English architect Edward Buckton designed the castle in the then popular style of Tudor Gothic and the foundation stone was laid by the Harrach family in June 1841. The building work was supervised by a young Austrian architect Karl Fischer, who also designed the interiors, furnished with antique pieces from Austria and Venice. The castle was finished in 1857. It was surrounded by a park and deer and pheasant enclosures, designed by landscape architect L. Krüger. After the end of World War II, as part of the so-called President Beneš Decrees, the castle was nationalized and the Harrach family moved to Austria. The castle has been open to the public since 1953.
The subject of the restoration work was the portrait of the Empress Eleonore Magdalene, Countess Palatine of Neuburg (1655 – 1720), third wife of the Emperor Leopold I of Habsburg, who reigned from 1657 till 1705. The Empress came from the important German aristocratic family of Wittelsbach – her father was Philip William Wittelsbach, Elector Palatine. Eleonore and her fifteen years older husband had ten children, of whom the best known are undoubtedly the Emperor Josef I (1705 – 1711) and the Emperor Charles VI (1711 – 1740). Eleonore Magdalene, Countess Palatine of Neuburg is remembered by history as a modest woman, who assisted the poor and was also involved in her husband's foreign politics. She was held in universal respect at the Viennese Court, despite the unflattering gossip describing her and her husband as the ugliest married couple in Central Europe.
The portrait of the Empress Eleonore hangs at the top end of the summer dining hall of the castle, side by side with the portrait of the Emperor Leopold I. The oil painting on canvas is the work of an unknown artist dating probably from the 1850s. It had already been restored in the past.
The subject of the restoration work was the portrait of the Empress Eleonore, which was found to be in a dilapidated state. Before the restoration could commence, an expert survey of the stratigraphy of the paint layers and the composition of the materials used had to be carried out. The obtained samples were examined under the microscope and the whole microscopic analysis photo documented. All actual restoration work undertaken was based on the results of the survey.

Prior to the restoration the painting was X-rayed in order to evaluate defects and previous interventions to the portrait. It was established that the portrait had been in the past comprehensively restored and that rentoilage had been carried out. Rentoilage involves complete renovation of the painting, where the damaged original canvas in under laid by a new one and both canvases are fused together. The secondary canvas used in the rentoilage had nevertheless been severely affected by mould. The colour layer was very dirty and the surface varnish yellowed to such a degree so as to distort the original colours of the oil painting. The materials used in the past to seal defects were deemed unsuitable and it was decided to remove them.
The painting was first secured with a protective covering and then removed from the frame. The back of the painting was rid of dirt and surface mould, using propolis resin.
This was followed by another rentoilage using beeswax, damar resin and propolis. The protective covering was then removed and the canvas re-stretched onto the original frame, which had also been treated. The front of the painting was cleaned and the yellowed layer of varnish thinned. Minor defects were carefully sealed. To conclude, the painting was preserved using semi-matt damar varnish.