Centuries-old varnish disappears from an oil painting in a matter of minutes in two videos of a restoration that are going viral.
British art dealer and historian Philip Mould shared astonishing footage of the partial transformation of a 17th-century piece to Twitter on Monday.
In the clips, a restorer uses a swab to remove the thick layer of varnish that had been applied to protect the Jacobean-era painting of an unidentified 36-year-old woman in red.
Slowly but surely, the vivid colors of the 1618 work by an artist, also unidentified, begin to shine through.
"Still a way to go, but what a transformation," Mould wrote.
For comparison, Mould also shared this snap of the painting in its original state:
Mould said the work, obtained at an auction in London, was "reminiscent of, although not by" British artist William Larkin, who was a leading portrait painter of the period.
But what he found "tantalizing" with the work was the sitter, he told HuffPost on Tuesday.
"With cleaning we hope to get more clues in the dress and the jewelry that could be a message as to her identity," said Mould, citing a heraldic device in the broach of the woman's hair as a possible clue.
The complete varnish removal process will take about three weeks. Mould said the painting will then be "touched in" where there are any minor losses and varnished again.
"What makes the work so special is it's almost pristine surface in some parts," he added. "The 200-year-old varnish has protected it from both the elements and the ravages of amateur restorers."
He promised to post an image of the completed piece "as soon as it is ready."
Once fully restored, the piece will be put on sale and exhibited at the Masterpiece Fair in London in June 2018.
This post has been updated with quotes from Mould.