Wednesday 5 November 2014
An update on the conservation of Woman with a Floral Wreath
Last week I described how the painting had been removed from its old stretcher and the excess wax carefully removed. The next steps in the treatment plan are to mend the tear in the canvas before lining the canvas for support and to enable re-stretching before retouching the loss so it is no longer a focal point.
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.
Filling and lining
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.
Varnishing and 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.
The information gained from these will hopefully make it possible to make an informed estimate of the origin of the canvas. It is hoped that this research into provenance through technical examination will be continued after the treatment is complete. The discovery of French newsprint on the old stretcher, the ground structure and identification of pigments are all great leads for further research on the provenance of this painting.
Please check back later for further exciting developments, and to see the painting after the treatment is complete!