Restorers had wondered what holds together the five wood planks which make up "Visitation," an enigmatic work by the 16th-century Mannerist Jacopo Pontormo. New research suggests they were pieced together with a kind of cheese glue, according to restorer Daniele Rossi.
In fact, cheese glue was often used to join wood planks. The goat or cow cheese-based concoction produced a sticky and thick compound which dried hard as stone, making it extremely hard for wood joints to separate.
Here, Rossi works on restoring "Visitation."
"Visitation" shown before the restoration (left) and after (right).
In addition to finding the super glue, the restorer filled 1,673 woodworm holes and removed the heavy repainting of past restorations. Incisive, luminous colors which previous restorations had covered with a yellow varnish, re-emerged.
The painting depicts in an almost metaphysical way the biblical meeting of the Virgin Mary, pregnant with Jesus, and Elisabeth, pregnant with St. John the Baptist. Staring fixedly into space, two statuesque figures in the background represent their alter egos.
Previously unseen details also emerged: here two passers-by strangely appear like masked mannequins.
The cleaning also revealed a smiling donkey peeking out from behind the corner of a building.