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Conservation Treatment of an Italian Oil Painting on Paper

I recently completed treatment of a very unusual Italian portrait that was rendered in oil on a paper support. The piece is a family heirloom and distant relative of the client, who was concerned about a tear and some rippling & planar distortion that had evolved from a previous repair.  The artwork had been adhered to an acidic backing board along the perimeter edges to minimize any further damage to the portrait.  Some inpainting had been performed at that time in the areas of loss as well.  

Oil paintings on paper present some specific treatment concerns.  The layer of oil behaves very differently than paper as it ages and is introduced to different environments (varying humidity and temperatures levels, for instance.)  Over time, the paper had swelled, but the areas where it had been adhered along the edges could not move, which produced buckling and planar distortion in the artwork. 

My job was to remove the artwork from the backing board, clean away the adhesive and paper residues on the artwork, humidify and flatten it, and then stabilize it for reframing.  The process of removing the paper and adhesive residues was tedious but rewarding.  After applying several poultices and working slowly & methodically, the residues were significantly reduced.

The above image shows the portrait adhered to its backing board. There are paper & adhesive residues present on the front and back of the artwork, particularly evident here along the top & bottom edges.
Removal of paper and adhesive residues with conservation poultices.

After humidifying and flattening the artwork, it was mounted with archival adhesives to an 8-ply cotton rag matboard.  Voila!  The planar distortions were removed, and the artwork is ready for inpainting by oil painting conservator Jan Hessling, who initially referred the client to me in the first place.

The painting mounted to its new archival backing board after flattening and residue removal.

This was a truly interesting and rewarding project to work on.  It involved research and problem-solving, and it was very satisfying to see the pleasing end results.  Hopefully the client and his family will enjoy this artwork for many more generations.

The completed artwork in its frame.

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