Solvent gel cleaning, consolidation and in-painting

…continued from the previous post A Case study of an oil on canvas painting

It was important to remove the old varnish from this painting because, it was very thickly applied almost every other year of its lifetime and had darkened to an extent that the actual colors of the painting were not visible.

For the first two days after initial assessment about the solubility of the varnish, we struggled with removing varnish by rolling swab-stick dipped in the solvent. This was like working on a glass-like surface (almost 1to 1.5 mm thick) and trying to slowly dissolve it away.

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It was really hard to remove the varnish. It was taking hours to clear a small area. In the video below one can see how i started on a small area that i knew might be white under the varnish and hence would be easy to see it getting cleared. But it took much more time after i stopped the video recording. Once it was clear, i started another smaller nearby area, which again took longer than usual.

After trying the solvent based gel for different periods of time in the background areas, we slowly moved towards the central figure for varnish removal. Following video-clip summarizes the methodology we followed for removing varnish in this particular painting.

With numerous previous re-touchings, it was a cumbersome process with a lot of continuous photo-documentation. Next steps were consolidation, filling and in-panting.

In the following video, adhesive residues from previous restoration attempts are removed and then the loose paint layer is consolidated. The video next to this has a fast forward view of in-painting of the filled gaps. We somehow missed the recording of the filling process.

In the next post i would discuss the few areas in the paint layer which were totally lost and were casually re-painted. These had to be carefully studied and recreated. We found a photograph of this same portrait in one of the books on Kapurthala which was a very useful reference.


Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

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