Still Life - Gerrett Willemsz Heda

Still Life - Gerrett Willemsz Heda
NSW National Trust
Paintings Conservation


ICS won the 2022 NSW National Trust “Conservation – Interiors and Objects” Award for this project, with its submission titled “The Discovery of an Old Master Panel Painting Masquerading as a 19th Century Copy”.  The discovery of this artwork made headlines around the world.

The still life painting originally belonged to the National Trust’s Woodford Academy collection. Its provenance was unknown, and for many years was assumed to be a 19th painting in the style of 17th Century Dutch Panel still life. The frame, in which the painting had previously been displayed, was also a 19th century design, which added to the assumption that the painting was not an original 17th Century Dutch still life.

The artwork was delivered to ICS for conservators to ascertain any additional provenance. The painting was also in need of significant conservation treatment.


On initial examination, the painting was found to be covered in a heavy surface dirt and discoloured varnish, which significantly obscured the composition and any artists’ signature. Once removed from its frame, and after careful examination, conservators determined that the still life was painted in a style consistent with 17th century materials and techniques. It also bore similarities to the still life paintings of Willem and Gerret Heda.

Both artists were known for concealing their signatures in discreet locations and this was confirmed when examination under microscope revealed a Heda signature and a 17th century date, discretely concealed on the blade of a knife within the composition.

Puzzlingly, two signatures were identified, father Willem and son Gerret Heda. A world expert in Dutch panel paintings, Fred Meijer, was contacted, and after some months, the painting was authenticated as being a genuine Gerret Heda.


Timber Panels

  • The adhesive used to join the two oak timber panels had failed, resulting in a split composition
  • Both sections of the oak timber had independently bowed
  • There were some losses in the oak timber
  • Heavy surface dirt was visible


  • Some of the painted media was unstable in areas, particularly along the wood grain
  • Numerous paint losses were visible throughout the composition
  • The varnish had discoloured considerably, giving the composition a yellow/brown hue
  • A past restoration treatment was visible, including consolidation and heavy overpaint
  • Heavy surface dirt and grime was visible


  • The current frame was found to be in poor condition, with major losses and cracking moulding


  • High resolution images and signature analysis
  • Artwork dry cleaned and aqueous cleaned
  • Varnish removed and coating applied to saturate composition
  • Losses in-filled
  • Timber panels re-joined
  • Retouching using Gamblin conservation colours
  • Artwork reframed into new frame in keeping with the painting’s origin and date

Media and Awards

Still Life - Gerrett Willemsz Heda
NSW National Trust
Paintings Conservation
Before Treatment
After Treatment

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