Preserving Minerva's MuralsMadonna of 1847

Madonna of 1847

Minerva Teichert (1888–1976) | oil on canvas | 77" x 123" | 1935

Madonna of 1847 after 2023 conservation.

A pioneer woman, wrapped in red paisley and holding a baby in her arms, looks over this scene of family migration to Utah in 1847. Another child rides alongside her in the covered wagon as they set out in the early light of dawn. In front of her, a man on horseback guides oxen while a background figure leads cattle along the trail.

Teichert got up to mimic the early morning light in this painting, sometimes called Madonna at Dawn. Her agent and friend, Alice Merrill Horne, arranged for this painting to hang in South Cache High School in Hyrum, Utah, as part of Horne’s initiative to make art available for schoolchildren. It stayed there as the site became South Cache Middle School. Conservation work was done at some point, and the sky was painted a darker blue. With the overpaint, the work felt more like it was painted at dusk.

2023 Conservation Notes

In 2023, conservators at Art Care Conservation removed the overpaint from the work. The sky brightened considerably and revealed Teichert’s brushstrokes.

Detail of Madonna of 1847 during removal of overpaint in the sky.

Detail of Madonna of 1847 before 2023 conservation (left) and after conservation (right).

It also became clear that Minerva had changed her composition while painting the work. A visible swooping line to the left of the wagon’s cover, an extra wagon bow, and a third connection to the wagon’s jockey box reveal Minerva’s original composition, which she left visible in the final painting.

Infrared photograph of Madonna of 1847.

Minerva left considerable challenges for art curators who aim to be true to an artist’s intent. Her thin paint sometimes left pencil sketches visible in her final works, and sometimes she added pencil drawings on top of her painting. This painting, which hung within the reach of schoolchildren for several decades, also had graffiti marks. Under magnification, some of the pencil marks were on top of the paint layer and didn’t correspond to Teichert’s composition, so they were removed. The pencil marks under the horse’s back hoof appeared to be under a thin layer of paint and followed the line of the hoof, so the decision was made to leave the marks.

Madonna of 1847 detail of graffiti marks before 2023 conservation (left) and after (right) with graffiti marks removed.

Madonna of 1847 detail of pencil marks below horse hoof.