|Before treatment began|
Mending the tear
The fibres around the tear were broken and in disarray and some were sitting on the wrong side of the canvas covering original paint. To have any hope of getting a flat surface (crucial for achieving a perfect retouching) and recovering the hidden original paint meant hours under the microscope, removing old fill and carefully placing the fibres back into their original positions. These were supported by the addition of a few new threads where threads had been broken or were missing.
|1. Under the microscope the mess of matted fibres embedded in the white fill is apparent 2. Looking at the same area with transmitted light, after the fill was removed and the fibres were aligned and new fibres were being added to fill in gaps.|
|This highly delicate work can only be achieved under magnification.|
The old losses were then filled and the painting was lined onto a new lining canvas using a vacuum table and with temperature control. After lining, the painting could be stretched onto a new stretcher.
|Lining the painting|
|1. During lining the painting is under vacuum 2. The painting is stretched and ready for retouching|
The final stages of the treatment are the varnishing and mimetic retouching which aims to make the new repair invisible to the viewer.
Before a treatment begins, the painting is subjected to a thorough examination, and throughout the conservation process the conservator naturally gains a pretty intimate knowledge of a painting. Examination under magnification reveals just how the painting was made, identifying pigments, revealing the build-up of paint layers and changes since execution. Occasionally samples of paint can be taken and looking at these under strong magnification can reveal the painting’s composition. Two samples were taken from Woman with a Floral Wreath using a method shared in a previous post.
These samples shed light on how the ground was applied – unusually, in three distinct and separate layers.
|Fragments of newsprint on the old stretcher|
– Genevieve Silvester, Paintings Conservation volunteer