A painting that came to our lab some five springs back makes a very good study for the students who have just started learning the practice of conservation.
It was a portrait of great-grandfather of Maharaja of Kapurthala. Ignorance of the staff responsible for the upkeep of the palace had led to multiple problems. Not just the flaking paint layer, it had portions of edges of canvas mended by rexine-like material, numerous re-touchings, layers of thick, yellowed varnish.
I would try to share the detailed observations, the problems and their solutions. It might take more than one posts to completely explore this case study.
- A high level of tension was observed in the painting because of the differences in the flexibility and brittleness of various layers of fabric (canvas), ground and paint, and the thick and brittle layer of varnish, canvas being stretched and held in place with the help of nails on the strtcher. The canvas was distorted and paint was flaking off mainly because of this differential stress.
- Strip lining with some rexine-like material was pasted on three of the four edges of the canvas.
- There were deep cracks as well flaked off paint. Paint layer was completely lost at many places.
- Background was heavily re-touched and many smaller re-touchings were observed in the central figure too.
The belt and specially the area above its buckle was repainted very casually.
- Varnish had yellowed because of ageing.
- The flaking paint pieces need to be secured before any other treatment was given.
- Varnish and re-touchings had to be removed
- Consolidation was required for flaking paint layer
- in-painting was required
- Protective coating was also required
The next post will be about the detailed treatment record, specially how we started with removing varnish with solvents and swab-stick and found solvent gel more effective and time-saving!