Tuulikki Kilpinen, independent conservator
A small oil painting, which was auctioned in Paris at the Hôtel Drout on 22 November 2019, arrived from France at my studio in the spring of 2021 for authentification and conservation at the request of the new owner, the Albert Edelfelt Association in Paris and its president Sven Edelfelt. The notes accompanying the sale cited the auction catalogue of Morand & Morand, and Lot no. 109 was a portrait of Mme Marie Félicité Dani (1864–1950), the wife of French sculptor Francis de Saint-Vidal, painted by the Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905). The provenance was the family estate. The work appeared to be in poor condition and to have been neglected. It is not included in the catalogue raisonné of Albert Edelfelt compiled by art historian Bertel Hintze (in Finnish 1953) and there was no sketch that resembled it in the sketchbooks. At the auction the painting was dated as 1884.
A research team was gathered to study the painting. This included the art historian and Edelfelt specialist Marina Catani, a specialist researcher in pigment analysis Seppo Hornytzkyj and myself as an expert in painting techniques and materials. The team had worked together earlier on other Edelfelt paintings. The art historian Laura Gutman joined the team to study the French archives. Each of us had our own specialty, but we all needed more biographical information about Mme Dani, the painting, and her sculptor husband from France. Research on artworks usually begins with art-historical studies on the provenance with the aid of archival material. In this case, however, there were inconsistencies in the work’s provenance information and in the messages gleaned from its materials. Thus, at the request of the owner, the team agreed to begin first with the conservation, contrary to its usual procedure. We had to find a link connecting the supposed model with Albert Edelfelt’s life and works. The varied research photos were of no use to begin with. Our work started in May 2021.
In this article, I present the material and technical research that we have carried out and show how some parts of the missing art-historical information can be supplemented with this kind of research, applying the methodology of technical art history. I also compare the artwork under study with other works by Edelfelt that the Edelfelt research team had previously studied, namely Queen Bianca (1877) and Portrait of the Opera Singer Aino Ackté (1901), as well as a new study for Portrait of Zachris Topelius (1889). While our research was underway Laura Gutman studied French archival sources and was able to shed new light on the owner and the provenance information, as well as on the date of the studied painting as described in her article ‘A Discovered Painting: Albert Edelfelt’s Study for Woman from Arles’. As a result, the date of the painting was first shifted to 1895–97, and then pinpointed to 1891, based on various written sources.
Thanks to further research, both Marina Catani and Laura Gutman could connect the painting under study with Edelfelt’s Woman from Arles (1893), which resides in the collection of Tampere Art Museum. That is why I have also examined that work and compare it with the painting under study. In this paper I use the title Portrait of a Woman to denote the painting which was sold as a portrait of Mme Dani, until our research found it to be the study for Woman from Arles. I will show how the research carried out by the Edelfelt research team reveals the painting technique and materials that connect the work with Albert Edelfelt’s production.
 Text in the auction catalogue: ‘Portrait de Marie Félicité Dani, (1864-1950) épouse de Francis de Saint-Vidal, de profil. / Huile sur toile, signée vers le bas à droite /41.5cm x 32cm. / (Accident visible en bas, à gauche / Trace de clous visibles sur les bordures gauche et supérieure) / […] Provenance: descendance de Marie Félicité DANI épouse de Francis de SAINT VIDAL et resté dans la famille depuis l’origine.’
 The Edelfelt Studio Practice Team (Catani, Hornytzkyj & Kilpinen) was active in the years 1998–2005 at the Finnish National Gallery. They compiled a database of 14 paintings by Albert Edelfelt, of which 5 are published: Tuulikki Kilpinen. ‘Metamorphosis on a canvas: a painting process reconstructed by literary and pictorial sources and material study’, in Conservare Necesse est. Festkrift till Leif Plahters på hans 70-årsdag. Oslo: IIC Nordic Group, 1999, 176–85; Tuulikki Kilpinen. ‘Impressionismin imussa, tutkimus Albert Edelfeltin Pariisin Luxembourgin puistosta – maalauksesta’, in Kirsi Kaisla (ed.), Edelfelt Pariisissa. Turun taidemuseon julkaisuja 2/2001 – Tikanojan taidekodin julkaisuja 2/2001. Turku: Turun taidemuseo, 2001; Tuulikki Kilpinen. ‘Modulations sur la toile: La Reine Blanche d’Albert Edelfelt’, in Pierre Curie (ed. and trans. in French), Histoire de l’art, 50, 2002, 65–76; Tuulikki Kilpinen and Marina Catani. ‘Kaleidoscopic exuberance and colour ascetism: Edelfelt’s portrait of Ackté, 1901’, in Ashok Roy & Perry Smith (eds.), Modern Art, New Museums. Bilbao: IIC Guggenheim Museum, 2004, 129–32; Tuulikki Kilpinen and Marina Catani. ‘Ou est l’enfant? Pinnan alle – Albert Edelfetin Lapsen ruumissaatto, 1879’, in Erkki Anttonen (ed.), Edelfelt: Matkoja, maisemia ja naamiaisia. Helsinki: WSOY, 2004, 31–50.
 The imaging concerned (VIS = visible radiation) from the front and reverse in both symmetrical and raking light, ultraviolet and infrared radiation with a Nikon 600 digital system camera, date 1–3 June 2021.
 An introduction to technical art history (in Finnish): Tuulikki Kilpinen. ‘Rantamaiseman tapaus’, in Auli Martiskainen (ed.), Elämän jälkiä, ikoneja. Konservaattori Helena Nikkasen juhlakirja. Heinävesi: Lintulan luostari, 2015, 137–48.
 See the mentioned article in FNG Research 1/2023, https://research.fng.fi/2023/04/03/a-discovered-painting-albert-edelfelts-study-for-woman-from-arles/.
Featured image: An ultraviolet image of Albert Edelfelt’s Portrait of a Woman, showing the fluorescence of organic red lake in the red areas and zinc white composed of inorganic pigments in the yellow areas. The pink colour of the skin is a mix of several pigments, of which fluorescence occurs only in red lake and zinc white
Photo: Tuulikki Kilpinen
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