This portrait was subject to 17th-century beauty filters in surprising overpainting

English Heritage conservation of Diana Cecil portrait
(Image credit: English Heritage)

Art conservators recently discovered that a historic portrait had been subject to some modern beauty enhancements in a previous restoration. Hidden under layers of old varnish, the strange discovery is a surprising revelation that our age of filtered photos isn't such a contemporary concept.

While the augmentations came as a surprise for conservators, at least we can feel a little less guilty if we use those sneaky Instagram filters – surely it's okay if we've been doing it since the 17th century? (If you'd like to start your own art journey, take a look at our guide on how to use oil paints). 

Portrait of Diana Cecil before and after painting conservation

(Image credit: English Heritage)

The restoration was the work of the charity English Heritage, which began conservation efforts after the painting was damaged in storage. Carefully removing a layer of yellowing varnish, the overpainting augmentation was uncovered, revealing that the female subject had received a lip augmentation and hairline-lowering.

"As a modern society with access to digital beauty filters and AI technology, we might think we know better than most eras the temptation to ‘perfect’ our appearance, but the conservation work to Diana Cecil has shown that this is not a new phenomenon," says English Heritage’s curator at Kenwood, Louise Cooling via The Guardian.

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The lady in question is Diana Cecil, a noblewoman in the early-mid 17th Century. Cecil was widely regarded as a beauty of her time, so the strange augmentations came as a surprise for conservators. It's believed that her makeover took place sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries – a result of the ever-evolving beauty standards.

Now returned to her original beauty, Cecil's portrait will be displayed at Kenwood House as part of English Heritage's Suffolk Collection. "I hope I’ve done Diana justice by removing these additions and presenting her natural face to the world,” says collections conservator at English Heritage, Alice Tate-Harte.

For more news from the art world, take a look at the hidden 'demon' found in this restored painting or check out the ultra-rare Bob Ross painting that went up for sale at a cool $9.8M. 

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Natalie Fear
Staff Writer

Natalie is Creative Bloq's staff writer. With an eye for trending topics and a passion for internet culture, she brings you the latest in art and design news. A recent English Literature graduate, Natalie enjoys covering the lighter side of the news and brings a fresh and fun take to her articles. Outside of work (if she’s not glued to her phone), she loves all things music and enjoys singing sweet folky tunes.