The Barleycorn Counter
08/11/2018 — 10/03/2019
The Flemish artist Pieter Pietersz. (1540/41 – 1603) mocks a man who is so tight-fisted and controlling that he even counts the barleycorn in the kitchen. The motif enjoyed such success that it was used
again by the painter and copied by others. Extensive restoration of this work from the MdbK collection is now complete. To mark this occasion, the restoration will be documented and several versions of
this popular image shown in a cabinet exhibition.
The work was withdrawn from public exhibitions at the time due to its extremely poor condition. A documentary provides glimpses into the intricate stages of restoration. The work was commissioned due to a fracture in the glued joint of the wooden panel, extensive peeling of the layered paint and its unsatisfactory condition with numerous ageing cracks and traces of earlier restoration. Dense retouching and paint-overs concealed extensive erosion of substance, scratches and knocks. The damage to the layered paint and the carrier had been caused by poor climactic conditions. The initial examination uncovered a detail in the top-left corner of the painting that had been painted over completely and that was then revealed under grazing light analysis. As shown in the photos, the mystery was resolved using X-ray and infrared imaging. A Dutch inscription applied to a light base explains in a rhyme the meaning of the imagery. In some sections it was difficult to distinguish between the parts that had been painted over and the original work. To resolves these issues unequivocally, it was necessary to remove miniscule samples of the paint layer and to analyse the cross section, providing a microscopic view of the layer structure within the painting.