It also has iconic value for Antwerp. As a visitor, you will undoubtedly encounter it in tourist information about the city. The master's self-portrait rarely leaves the house where it was created. In 2014, however, the self-portrait was sent to the National Gallery in London. The researchers of its world-famous Conservation Department examined the portrait in preparation of its restoration.
It was the first time that this self-portrait was examined in such detail. The current layer of varnish on the portrait proved to be very complex. Its removal is a very time-consuming, and a very pain-staking process that would take several months.
Based on these findings, the staff of the Rubens House is currently examining what must be done to restore the portrait to its original splendour. Then and only then will the museum consider restoring it.
Was Rubens parsimonious?
The reason why this self-portrait remained in the house was purely practical. Rubens used wood panels for all the paintings that he created for himself, such as family portraits. These consist of several boards. Some have alleged that Rubens was parsimonious. After all, he used panels in one piece for his commissions. A composed panel only makes the work even more fragile. It is more difficult to conserve and also difficult to transport. More joins means the panel has more chances of cracking.