Portrait of David Murray, 19th century
Thomas Sully (American, 1783–1872)
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. Hattie Bishop Speed 1942.73


This handsome man has spent too many days and nights in the darkened storage racks. We anticipate major improvement after treatment, preserving this artwork for decades to come.

A thin layer of varnish has oxidized and discolored, giving the whole surface a yellowed cast. This dirty varnish results in poor color saturation: whites are tinged yellow, and there is no sense of volume or shape in his black suitcoat. There are general grime and dirt deposits across the surface of the painting.

Treatment will involve removing the surface grime and discolored varnish. Cleaning tests indicate that the results will be extraordinarily dramatic. Once we have the original paint revealed, we’ll varnish the painting with a stable, synthetic resin varnish, and follow up by inpainting or filling any areas of loss.

The frame is period-appropriate and is probably original. Let’s get this fellow spiffed up and out into the galleries!