Restoration of Palmyra painting

In the spring of 2019 the View of Palmyra painting was restored live in front of museum visitors. This event was made possible by a crowdfunding campaign by the Amsterdam University Fund, the Friends of the Allard Pierson, and gifts and donations.

Two-month restoration

Restorer Erick Douwes of Douwes Fine Art worked from 19 March to 19 May on the restoration of the two-metre-wide panorama. Erick carried out the work in front of visitors in a specially designed studio at the Allard Pierson. The painting shows what Palmyra looked like in 1691, and is therefore of great archaeological, cultural and historical importance. That’s because three centuries of research, reconstruction and destruction have changed Palmyra forever.

The first step in the restoration process was the careful removal of surface dirt and part of the yellowed varnish. High-risk cracks were then strengthened and levelled, and unsightly gaps filled. The final step in the restoration process was the application of a retouching and final varnish. The restoration has rendered the details and original tones clearly visible once more: the air has regained its blue colour, and the ruins are clear white again.

“Palmyra is for the Allard Pierson what the Night Watch is for the Rijksmuseum”

– Art historian and ambassador Jan Six

In full view of visitors

Visitors were able to watch the restoration process live. As they worked, Erick Douwes and his colleagues Karin Eij and Joanne Kamphuis answered many questions from visitors about the restoration work. The restoration studio was freely accessible to the public and the Allard Pierson also organised free Palmyra tours through the museum and studio. Lucinda Dirven, historian and lecturer in ancient history, gave a lecture about the cultural-historical importance of Palmyra and the archaeological significance of the painting.

In the near future the painting will be given a prominent place in the museum, accompanied by an interactive table on which visitors can view drawings, paintings, photographs and satellite images.

The result

Before restoration:

After restoration:

Detail after restoration: