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John Everett Millais (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896)  Hearts are Trumps  Oil on canvas, 1872  2010 x 2550 mm  Private collection
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Title: Hearts are Trumps
Description:
 
John Everett Millais (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896)
Hearts are Trumps
Oil on canvas, 1872
2010 x 2550 mm
Private collection

In its style, which recalls the works of the eighteenth-century painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, and in its flattering depiction of the fashionable sitters, this picture expresses a gentle and nostalgic vision of family life. Elizabeth, Diana and Mary, daughters of W Armstrong of Scotland and London, were in their twenties when Millais painted them. Mary holds most of the trumps and looks towards the viewer. Delicately, the card game hints at sisterly competition in husband-finding.
 
Millais’s Hearts are Trumps is currently on display in the Linbury galleries following major treatment of the painting and frame by Tate Conservation. Since acquisition in 1945 the painting has suffered a poor aesthetic condition due to discoloured natural resin varnish layers which flattened the composition and distorted the colours radically. Like Turner and Reynolds, Millais’s paintings have a reputation amongst conservators for being difficult to clean, due in part to the way the artist layered and mixed resin in with his oil media.

Trepidation at the start of treatment led to more extensive testing and analysis than usual, much of it carried out under a stereo-microscope. Minute samples of paint were taken by Joyce Townsend (Conservation Science) to study the layering structure of the painting, and UV fluorescence was used to distinguish between varnish, wax and paint layers. As anticipated the numerous tests found sensitive black, brown and green pigments. It took several weeks to find an appropriate method of removing the varnish while protecting the original paint surface. The painstaking treatment carried out by Natasha Duff (Paintings Conservation) took five months to complete and has resulted in returning the image to an appearance closer to when it was painted in 1872.
Most who know Hearts are Trumps as an icon of the Tate Collection, including the longest serving members of Tate staff, only recall it looking flat and dirty. Many are now amazed at the restored depth, vibrancy of colour and lively impressionistic brushwork never seen before at Tate.

Alongside treatment of the painting, the frame, probably the original for the painting, was restored by Alastair Johnson (Frame Conservation).
 
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John Everett Millais (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896)  The Eve of St. Agnes  Oil on canvas, 1862-1963  Royal CollectionJohn Everett Millais (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896)  Hearts are Trumps  Oil on canvas, 1872  2010 x 2550 mm  Private collectionJohn Everett Millais (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896)  A Huguenot  Oil on canvas, 1852  92.71 cm × 64.13 cm (36.5 in × 25.25 in)  Private Collection
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