Consolidated, lined, cleaned, filled
Inpainted and resurfaced
On arrival: extensive paint loss, poorly matched earlier restorations
Erastus Salisbury Field, 19th C American, oil on canvas
This 19th Century painting of a woman in a white dress was considerably deteriorated on arrival and had been losing paint for a long time. It had been previously restored but the wax had dried out and the canvas was separating from the lining. The color matching from the earlier restoration had altered and was no longer accurate, and the paint was continuing to flake off the canvas.
The first step was to apply a facing tissue to consolidate the paint film while the canvas was prepared for lining. The painting was then removed from the stretcher, placed face down and flattened with moisture and weights. After that, the remaining wax was scraped from the back. Meanwhile, a second, slightly larger canvas was stretched, soaked, and restretched to remove all possibility of further expansion, and conservation wax was painted on both the back of the painting and the lining canvas.
On a vacuum hot table the two were fused together using the heat of the table to melt the wax and the pressure of the vacuum, as well as energetic rolling, to make them adhere completely. The canvas was then supported by the new backing and the melted wax had penetrated to the surface of the painting to permanently arrest the flaking of the paint. At this point, the facing tissue could be removed
The next stage was to clean the painting of residual grime and discolored varnish, and to remove the poorly matched overpaint from the earlier restoration, after which all the many areas of missing paint were filled with a mixture of rabbit skin glue and whiting and then screeded to level with the surface.
After a separating coat of acryloid B-67 varnish, inpainting of the fillings was done. The surrounding colors were precisely matched using pure ground pigments in a medium of B-67 and xylene. This medium, unlike oil paint which changes as it dries, remains the same indefinitely.
Inpainting is done dot by tiny dot with a small sable brush using a head loupe with 7 power magnification and a 500 watt light. It is, as can be imagined, very demanding.
Once the inpainting was completed, a final surface was created by sprayed coats of acryloid B-67 and paraloid B-72. This type of varnish is unaffected by ultraviolet light and will not discolor over time.
At this point the painting was not only restored to its original appearance but preserved to remain that way for the foreseeable future.