For a week or so last March many here in S.F. were wringing their hands over the news that the new owners of The Palace Hotel, Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts, were going to auction off Maxfield Parrish's beloved 1909 painting, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." The painting was commissioned for the hotel's opening, and its estimated value is between $3 million and $5 million. A public outcry convinced them to hold on to the painting, but they still sent it off to a professional restoration company in New York. Well, now it's on its way back, all bright and shiny.
At the time of the announcement of the auction, the hotel folks made a bunch of excuses about how the painting hadn't been treated well enough, hanging over a bar where smoking was once permitted, and that it deserved to be preserved and put in better hands. But everyone, including Mayor Ed Lee, cried foul, saying that the painting was one of the city's cultural treasures and that it needed to stay here.
It's now spent a few months away at Rustin Levenson Art Conservation, and according to the Business Times:
[Conservationists] found that the painting’s top surface was covered with two coatings and what specialists believe to be shellac between the layers of paint — the first time the use of shellac by Parrish has been found.
Conservationists also found a layer of aging resin that over the years has diluted the vibrancy of the Pied Piper’s colors. That resin was removed, and the painting was cleaned and treated with a non-yellowing, re-saturating varnish to reveal the painting’s true colors.
Though the hotel also hemmed and hawed about whether the painting would be returned to its spot behind the Pied Piper Bar, that is what is happening. The painting will be rehung in the same spot, with an official unveiling at 6 p.m. on August 22, and we can't wait to see it.