Damage to canvas supports
Along with normal maintenance, a constant monitoring of the painting over time (especially as regards the relative humidity and the ambient temperature where the work is housed) can prevent the majority of damages that could occur during the ageing of a painting. The most serious damage to art works is decisively caused by natural accidents. This includes the ordinary traumas caused by man, and above all – strange as it may seem – by unsuccessful restoration treatments carried out in the past.
Tears in the canvas and deterioration of the cellulose
Tears in the canvas, even though they can usually be traced to accidental traumas, are fairly frequent and are closely tied to the individual condition of the painting. The sensitivity of the canvas to changes in humidity causes slacking, pulling and uneven tensions. In addition, the cellulose – which is the major component of the canvas – inevitably deteriorates and loses elasticity in contact with the atmosphere. When it oxidizes, the canvas becomes darker and more fragile. The cellulose, in contact with the acids in atmospheric pollution, decomposes and is transformed into hydrocellulose. Under these conditions, biological attacks are facilitated and even the slightest mechanical solicitations can cause tears and rips in the canvas. This entire process is accelerated by the presence of glues and oils.
Incorrect lining interventions
The lining of a painting, that is, the adhesion of the supporting canvas to a new canvas, required – and even today often requires – the simultaneous use of heat and pressure. It is an intervention with a history dating to the 1700’s. It can be easily understood that this operation – when it is not correctly carried out – can cause particularly serious damage to the painting. Often, this damage has no remedy, as in the case when an impasto surface is altered due to the use of excessive heat.
Incorrect lining interventions
If the lining canvas does not have specific characteristics, or is not adequately prepared before a lining intervention, it can cause problems in tension or slack. These problems not only negate the reasons for lining, but they themselves can cause damage. An incorrectly executed lining can emphasize defects in the original support, such as seams and other imperfections in the weave, causing damage in the painting.
In addition, it should be kept in mind that small tears in the canvas were often backed with strips of paper or fabric (patches) applied to the reverse of the work with varying types of adhesives. In some cases even this intervention can be the cause of strong contractions resulting in the deformation of the original support.
Incorrect interventions: flattening of the brushstrokes
More or less frequent in various periods in the history of are the form, direction and vigor of the brushstrokes that animate the material. In addition, they allow us to follow the work of the artist, to better understand the style, the technique and the entire creative process. The study of the rhythm of the brushstrokes contributes to the evaluation of the quality of a work. It can become a fundamental element in establishing the originality of the work itself. Many treatments in the lining, consolidation and color fixing for works on wood panel and canvas do not tend to take these factors into account. The painting is considered simply a two-dimensional surface without material that constitutes any thickness. As a result, incautious treatments have lead to a flattening out of the impasto and the thick brushstrokes, thereby destroying a characteristic that no future restoration can remedy.
Manfredi Faldi – Claudio Paolini
Estratto da: Artis (Art and Restoration Techniques Interactive Studio), Direzione scientifica: Manfredi Faldi, Claudio Paolini. Cd Rom realizzato da un gruppo di istituti di restauro europei, coordinati dall?Istituto per l?Arte e il Restauro Palazzo Spinelli, con il determinante contributo della Commissione Europea nell’ambito del programma d’azione INFO2000.
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