This portrait masterpiece from 1778 suffered from dirt particulates that had accumulated on the surface and in the layers of the older varnish. The paint film was dry and this had led to craquelures and cupping. Furthermore, the canvas was brittle and had a low thread count. Numerous instances of old restorations added to the difficulty, as well as asphaltum on both sides.
After de-fitting, the painting was carefully cleaned and then re-lined with Pecap, a see-through material that will allows the signature on the reverse to still be visible. To coax the craquelures and cupping, further hydration was administered. Once the paint film was pliable, it was easier to return to plane. Losses were then in-painted, matching new colors to the original. Conservation varnish to finish. The stretcher bar had extensive beetle damage and was treated for the invasion and for dry rot, and given a Dutchmen to strengthen the weak areas. A lift was added to keep painting further from the wooden structure.
An American/English Colonial frame made out of oak was hand-carved and gilded, and given a baguette fit and styled with a black clay inner liner. The gilding was done in 23 karate gold.
Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montréal, Canada has included this painting in a chapter about “Lighting” for their upcoming publication of FIRE, which is part of a five volume book involving: Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and a final installment presenting artifacts from the Province of Québec.
Francois Beaucourt (1740-1794; also known as Francois Malepart De Beaucort) is known as the first Canadian artist to receive European training. His father was also a painter, and was likely the first teacher of Francois, though records at the time are hard to come by. What is known is that the father, Mallepart De Grand Maison, was a soldier who was believed to have gone to New France with the colonial regular troops. At this time, New France extended from Northwest Canada down to New Orleans, spanning into the present day Midwest, and skipping the Atlantic seaboard, which was controlled by England. Mallepart married in 1737, the wedding certificate described him as a “sergeant in the troops of the company of M. de Beaujeu [Louis Liénard].” It’s believed that by 1740 he had given up the military career to become a painter: the Montreal baptismal papers for his four children describe him as a painter. The first born was Francois, and subsequently the only living child of the marriage. Mallepart died 17 years after Francois was born, and his wife remarried to Corporal Lasselin, who may or may not have relocated the family to France. However, it was in Bordeaux, in 1773, where Francois married Benoîte, the daughter of Joseph-Gaëtan Camagne, a theatre artist and decorator.
Eleven years later, Francois departed for America; unfortunately, all the artwork he created in Bordeaux has been deemed lost. The next known trace of the artist was in 1792 when he surfaced in Philadelphia and published an advertisement in the General Advertiser. The same advertisement would appear in the Montreal Gazette, but in this case he changed the description of himself from a French painter to a Canadian one. Francois would go on to create a substantial amount of religious paintings and portraits, and it’s the latter where his talent seems to have found its strongest definition: his warm colors imbuing the subjects with a life-like quality.
He died in Montreal in 1794.