To the untrained eye, the unrestored portrait known as the Woman in Red wasn’t particularly attractive. A yellowish sickly patina covered the whole painting, making colors dull and details indistinct. However, once restorers began to remove the grime, a vibrant artwork started to emerge, as if by magic. Indeed, it was a restoration that has captivated people around the world.
Portraiture has been around for almost as long as the art of painting itself. For most of that time, the people represented were the wealthy and powerful, a trend that continued for centuries. Even today, official portraits of the U.S. president or the British Royal family arouse a great deal of interest.
The Renaissance, beginning in the 14th century, was a golden age for painted portraits. Not only was it the time of artistic geniuses like Michelangelo and Leonardo, but it also saw new techniques and materials emerge that would change the world of painting forever. Luckily for us, thanks partly to the work of art conservators, many portrait paintings survive from this time.