Case Study
 
           
           

Historical Rewards:

A Dutch and a Flemish Discovery
           

Egbert van der Poel
"Barn Interior"
Before Treatment
           
           
           
 

Treatment
 
 

8/14/08 to 11/10/08
 
           
           
Consolidation
           
Minor edge areas of weak paint were consolidated using a 1:10 gelatin adhesive. The liquid adhesive was applied using a small sable brush. The horizontal panel split was consolidated similarly. This initial step allowed treatment work to continue without risk of loss. (14)
           
 

Cleaning
 
The cleaning of an oil painting involves the removal of discolored surface films and all areas of non-original paint. An understanding of paint chemistry is required to remove the films without injury to the surface. This work is carried out under binocular magnification using cotton swabs and appropriate solvents. The recent upper dirt film was removed using a mild pH-neutral detergent while the 1985 varnish layer was removed using a weak organic solvent.
           
A pH-neutral detergent was also used to remove the older dirt film. When viewed through a microscope, it was apparent that the overpaint was intermixed with the oldest varnish layer. This final layer was directly on top of the paint surface. Varnish removal began from the right side of the painting and away from the left overpainted areas. This method allowed for an understanding of the delicacy of the original paint layer before removing the overpaint. The below right image details the color change that resulted from removing the discolored varnish. Oil paint becomes milky as it ages. As a result, darker tones will appear blanched or bloomed after cleaning. Later revarnishing reinstates the original richness.
           

Egbert van der Poel
Detail "Barn Interior"
During Cleaning

Egbert van der Poel
Detail "Barn Interior"
During Cleaning
           
           
 

Overpaint Removal
 
           
The overpaint was thicker than the original paint layer, necessitating a cleaning method in which a rolling technique for the cotton swabs was employed to prevent surface abrasions that could result from mechanical action. A scalpel was required to assist in the removal of the hardened paint. A startling image was dramatically revealed at the top of the ladder: the removal of the non-original paint uncovered what appeared to be the legs of a flayed animal. While the area showed small horizontal losses, the original paint was well intact.
           

Egbert van der Poel
Detail "Barn Interior"
During Cleaning

Egbert van der Poel
Detail "Barn Interior"
During Cleaning
           
Full removal of the area's varnish and overpaint brought out the full carcass of a flayed pig. What was earlier a stand-alone ladder, became the necessary support mechanism for the carcass. While this discovery alone in the painting's treatment would have been reward enough, the final reward was yet to come. Removal of the overpaint from the lower left corner revealed the artist's signature, "Egbert van der Poel," and a faint date, "164{6?}."
           

Egbert van der Poel
Detail "Barn Interior"
After Cleaning

Egbert van der Poel
Detail "Barn Interior"
Signature
           
           
 

Filling
 
           
Filling has two purposes. It prevents further damage by sealing the edges of holes, tears, and cracks. It is also used to reproduce a sympathetic surface with respect to plane and texture. Minor areas of former loss and the horizontal crack were filled with gesso, a mixture of marble dust and a 1:7 gelatin adhesive.
           

Egbert van der Poel
"Barn Interior"
After Cleaning and Filling
           
           
 

Varnishing
 
           
A brush coat of Windsor & Newton non-yellowing varnish was applied to the paint surface. Varnish is applied for several reasons. First, it reinstates the richness of the paint, allowing the darks to have their proper tone. Second, it keeps dirt and air pollution off of the picture surface. Third, the surface coating protects the paint layer from damage caused by abrasion, moisture, and accidental accretions. The varnish also creates an ethical buffer between the original paint layer and the retouching or inpainting. Conservators do not paint directly on the original paint surface. The work is done on top of an isolating varnish and can be taken off by simply removing the underlying varnish.
           
           

Retouching
           
Retouching is carried out to correct visual irregularities caused by inherent structural problems or surface damage. Its purpose is to reduce or eliminate these inconsistencies. (15) It is applied only to areas of loss and never extends over the original paint. The retouching was completed using Maimeri conservation pigments. These pigments are both color- and light-fast, offering confidence that the restoration areas will remain consistent over time. Also, the pigments are soluble in mineral spirits. The use of this relatively weak solvent permits safe and easy removal without risk of injury to the original surface.
           
           
 

Completion
 
 

11/10/08
 
           

After retouching, the application of a non-yellowing spray varnish completed the treatment.
           

Egbert van der Poel
"Barn Interior"
Before Treatment

Egbert van der Poel
"Barn Interior"
After Treatment
           

Egbert van der Poel
"Barn Interior"
After Treatment
           
           
Footnotes    
(14) References for consolidation, cleaning, varnishing, and retouching from the author's 2005 Case Study on Heinrich Knirr's "Portrait of Adolf Hitler."
(15) Filling, varnishing, and retouching purposes from Bradley, Morton C. The Treatment of Pictures. Cosmos Press, Cambridge. 1950.

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The Flayed Pig

 





Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532
e-mail:barrybbc7@yahoo.com