The Conservation of Charles Sidney Raleigh’s Panorama of a Whaling Voyage - New Bedford Whaling Museum
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Hybrid program – Cook Memorial Theater and on Zoom

The Conservation of Charles Sidney Raleigh’s Panorama of a Whaling Voyage

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 6-7pm

In 2022, the New Bedford Whaling Museum was awarded a major, competitive national grant through the “Save America’s Treasures” program to conserve one painting of our 22-panel panorama series: Charles Sidney Raleigh’s Panorama of a Whaling Voyage. Museum members will be familiar with our 1,275 foot long painting, The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World, painted by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington around 1848, conserved and exhibited in 2018. The Museum owns a second historic panorama painting: a 275-foot-long painting of twenty-two whaling scenes following the 1870-74 voyage of the ship Niger, one of the last great whaling vessels of the time, created between 1878 and 1880 by the prolific British-born artist Charles Sidney Raleigh. Today, Panorama paintings are extraordinarily rare. There are only eight known and held in US public collections – including the two at our Museum. For almost a year, the Raleigh painting has undergone a major conservation effort at Gianfranco Pocobene Studios in Greater Boston, funded by the National Park Service in collaboration with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. As, Gianfranco will share in this public program – the conservation of this 6 x 12 foot painting was no small feat. This ground breaking conservation effort was the largest aluminum panel reversal ever undertaken and was highly complex. Along with hearing about this significant effort, program attendees will be invited to view the newly conserved painting in person, seeing it as it would have looked in 1880.


About the speaker: Gianfranco Pocobene holds a BA in Fine Art from McMaster University, an MA in Conservation science from Queen’s University, and an advanced certificate in Paintings Conservation from the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, at the Harvard Art Museums. Gianfranco has built an illustrious career as a Paintings Conservator in the Boston area, where he has served as a research conservator for the MFA, Boston, as Conservator of Paintings at Harvard Art Museums, and as the John L. and Susan K, Gardner Chief Conservator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. He is currently Chief Paintings and Research Conservator at the Gardner, where he is responsible for the conservation and restoration of the paintings collection with emphasis on the technical research and related scholarly activities. He is also acting principle at Gianfranco Pocobene Studio in Malden, MA, where he specializes in the conservation of easel paintings from private and institutional collections and murals in public and private buildings. Gianfranco’s resume includes an incredible number of impressive projects and specialties. A few stand out in relation to our panorama project. He was project director of the restoration of the John La Farge murals and decorations in Trinity Church, Boston, MA, and was project supervisor of the conservation and restoration of John Singer Sargent’s Triumph of Religion mural cycle at the Boston Public Library. More recently, Gianfranco has made a specialty of treating and reversing aluminum sheet interleafs and panel mounting, with papers on this topic presented at international conferences such as the American Institute for Conservation Annual Conference in 2019.

These photographs show Katharyn Hernandez and Christy Gratini (conservation graduate school summer interns from the Queen's University and SUNY Buffalo), Corrine Long, and Gianfranco Pocobene removing the dirty and yellowed varnish layer to reveal the original bright, luminous colors.