The Restoration: Strategy and Method

Written by  Piero Tranchina
Observation of the reverse of the painting, executed on five poplar panels two centimetres thick, revealed a very poor state of conservation and evident signs of a massive attack by xylophagous insects. The supporting structure, two trapezoidal cross members in deal, is original.

Clearly the most worrying symptom of deterioration was the warping of the panels: a consequence of microclimatic variations that caused the wood to contract. The resulting deformation of the wood caused a serious disruption of the painted surface, further compromised by frequent retouching and reworking as well as by a thick layer of deteriorated varnishes.

Having carried out chemical analyses aimed at identifying the binders and pigments used, we proceeded to fix the areas where the painted surface had lifted using a heat-reactivated thermoplastic resin in rectified petroleum.
We then set about repairing the joins between the various panels, using wooden elements matching the original materials. The areas where the wood had deteriorated were repaired with plugs glued into place using a vinyl adhesive. Disinfestation was effected by brushing on a solution of permetrine in trichloroethane.

The painted surface was then cleaned with solvent mixtures of nitro+dimethylsulfoxide. The removal of the reworked areas and of the darkened varnishes made it easier to interpret the texture of the painting. Once cleaning had been completed, lost areas were filled with plaster and glue and the painting was integrated with watercolours and a varnish finish. The final glaze was effected by applying Retoucher varnish in rectified petroleum with brushes and atomizers.