PAINTING IN PRIMARILY CONDITION AND CAUSES OF DETERIORATION
Painting with its frame was brought for the art conservation work to the Department of Art Restoration and Conservation, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb from the Museum of the City of Zagreb; who had acquired the painting from one family from Samobor, Croatia.
Painting dimensions are 78 x 57 cm. The signature of the author is visible on the lover right side of the painting. The sign at the stretcher gave valuable art-historical information: the painting was made around 1920. It was damaged during a bombing in Kušlanova Street in 1944. and was probably “restored” at that time, or later.
Before the painting was bought from Museum of the City of Zagreb it was kept in inadequate conditions for a long period of time. High fluctuations of relative humidity on which the painting was exposed were one of the main reasons of high asperity of the painting in its all stratigraphic layers. Painting was firm, non-flexible, and there were no detachments of paint and ground layers of the painting from the carrier in spite of its high asperity. Front side of the painting was covered with thick layer of dust and soot. By visual observation of the painting, of its dark and yellowish tones it was assumed that it was probably overpainted. Although the rendenogram of the painting did not shown more significant traces of the overpaint layer in the sense of any shift of the painted areas, UV- fluorescence has shown a high fluorescence of the upper layer of the painting (as well as the traces of old putty). Old oil varnishes have high UV-fluorescence of that kind, it was determined that it was oil overpaint with probably a higher amount of oil used in the painting medium. It was determined that the painting was made in two chronological layers: the overpaint and the original paint layer. The original paint layer has oil – sacharid binder. It is poppy oil and plum resin. The ground of the painting is made of animal glue with chalk and addition of zink white. Craquelure in the area of hands, highly evident on the infrared reflectogram in direct light photograph, were the cause of use of sicative, but as well because of the use of lead white for the painting of hands.Painting had rips all over its surface, around 20 of them, from what 10 larger. Old putty that were closing the rips were from wax. Carrier of the painting was made with two parts of flax canvases joined together which contributed to its sensitivity. The central junction of the canvas became visible with time on the front side of the painting. Also visible from the back side of the carrier was penetration of Prussian blue of the portrayed Božidar Zajčić. Canvas had also dark blemishes and it was full of filth and dust. Microbiological analysis has shown concentrations of mould in smaller amount, and the bacteria were found in a greater amount due to their source of food from the paraffin wax which was closing the rips on the back side of the painting. Stretcher of the painting was inadequate and has contributed to the asperity and weakening of the painting as well. The decorative frame was in relatively good state. Bonds of the frame were detached because of the slighter distortion of the frame, due to the fluctuations of the relative humidity. The frame was also covered with dust and soot, and smaller scratches were present on it.
CONSERVATION – RESTORATION WORK
CLEANING OF THE OVERPAINT
Cleaning of the overpaint with spirit gel was done because of good results of cleaning and because of the fact that gel form gives the possibility that the solvent acts “on the surface”, (with no diffusion of the components underneath the surface).Cleaning of the overpaint went gradually. Spirit gel was applied in smaller segments, so its action and neutralization was controlled. Removal of the overpaint was controlled under UV-light. Wax putty that were closing the rips were inadequate and brittle, and were saturated with white spirit and then removed mechanically with scalpel,. Overpaint was removed from the painting before it was taken off from the stretcher and straighten out. Although the painting had asperity, it was firm enough for removal of the overpaint while fixated to the stretcher.
WORK ON THE BACK OF THE PAINTING AND REMOVAL OF THE PAINTING FROM THE STRETCHER
From the back of the painting patches were removed and paraffin wax that was closing the rips of the painting was removed as well. Wax was soften with medical benzene and than mechanically removed. Before the removal of the painting from the stretcher, the edges of the painting were glued with 3% gelatin so no damages of them would occur.
After removal of the painting from the stretcher the dust and soot from the back of the painting was removed.
Facing was made with starch paste on japan paper. Facing has shown as a good isolator between the paint layer and elemi resin which was applied afterwards for the softening of the painting.
REMOVAL OF THE ASPERATION OF THE PAINTING, WORK ON THE BACK OF THE PAINTING
As the painting was firm, it was softened before straightening. On the applied facing elemi resin solute in turpentine was applied. Painting was closed into folia so the evaporation of the solvent would be slowed. The process was repeated the next day, as the painting was still firm after firs application. After softening of the painting, straitening has been done on a vacuum hot table on the temperature of 60 degrees and pressure of 650hPa.
From the back of the painting rips were closed with thin threads with Lascaux498 HV glue. The central junction of the painting was thinned down so it would not come out during the process of the lining of painting or later. Japan paper was removed from the front of the painting afterwards.
APPLICATION OF THE PUTTY
Damaged parts of the painting were filled with planatol putty. Before the application of putty, painting was varnished with 5% solution of dammar in turpentine.
LINING OF THE PAINTING
Painting was lined due to several factors: due to the weakening of the canvas of the painting which had high asperity in it’s primarily condition. Due to the fact that painting was made with two canvases joined in the central junction, and due to the many damages that were spread throughout the painting.
Lining was done with Plextol B360 thickened with Rohagit SD15. The lining glue was applied on the lining canvas two times in cross directions with a wide spatula. The canvas used for lining was from flax and of similar structure as the original one. Lining has been done on a vacuum – hot table at the temperature of 55 degrees and with a pressure of 800hPa.
APPLICATION OF THE PAINTING ON A NEW STRETCHER
After lining painting was stretched on a new stretcher. Old stretcher had valuable historical data on it, but it was inadequate for the painting.
RETOUCHING AND VARNISHING OF THE PAINTING
As stated the whole painting was varnished with 5% solution of dammar in turpentine. The areas of putty were isolated with 5% solution of shellac in spirit. Retouching has been done with aquarelle colors Winsor & Newton. After retouching, painting was varnished with the 6 % solution of dammar in turpentine with micro crystalline wax. Varnish was applied twice with a blower.
APLICATION OF THE PAINTING IN THE DECORATIVE FRAME
After conservation of the decorative frame, primarily reintegration of junctions of the frame, painting has been fixated on it.