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Wednesday, May 31 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
064. (Paintings) The Evolution of a Method: Optimizing the Use of Evolon® CR to Poultice Varnish on a Large Scale

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It is not uncommon for conservators of cultural heritage to encounter issues with scaling up a technique during treatment: testing a method in a small area seems to be successful, only to find that unexpected challenges may arise when applying this technique to an entire artwork. In such instances, it is valuable to be aware of the alterations or modifications one may make to a method to suit the requirements of a specific treatment. To this end, this poster describes the experimentation undertaken to optimize varnish removal from a painting on a large scale using Evolon® CR, an absorbent fabric composed of synthetic microfilament. This treatment was completed in the spring of 2016 during a post-graduate internship at the Hamilton Kerr Institute of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK. The painting in question, The Duke of York, is part of the collection of The Honorable Society of The Middle Temple in London. Attributed to John Riley and recognized as a copy after a painting executed by Sir Peter Lely in 1674, the work is dated to 1684 and measures approximately five feet in width and nearly eight feet in height. Small tests indicated that varnish removal using solvent on cotton swabs was problematic due to the thickness and polarity of the aged natural resin coatings, necessitating prolonged swabbing with polar solvents. Additionally, the paint appeared abraded and was underbound, likely due to past overcleaning, raising the concern that protracted mechanical action would pick up pigment. As a result, an alternative method of varnish removal was sought. While the use of solvent gels was considered, efforts focused instead on developing a technique to poultice the varnish using Evolon® CR, reducing the need for additional mechanical action to remove gel residues. Although initial tests with small squares of the fabric saturated with solvent were found to be successful, a number of issues were encountered when attempting to scale up. Experimentation sought to optimize a number of factors, including: the dimensions of Evolon® CR used; the means of saturating the fabric with solvent; the method of placement; and the duration of application. A strategy was developed to limit solvent leaching and increase the precision of placement, delivering solvent to a targeted area with large squares or custom-cut shapes of Evolon® CR up to 6 inches square in size. In addition to describing the optimized technique, this poster will discuss the theoretical advantages and disadvantages of the Evolon® CR method as well as provide context. Poulticing varnish in this manner will be compared with the use of solvent gels and with the tissue gel composite cleaning method published by Fife et al. at the Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) in 2011. It is hoped that publishing this case study will aid paintings conservators facing similar issues during treatment and inspire additional discussion regarding this method.

avatar for Kari Rayner

Kari Rayner

Conservator, National Gallery of Art
Kari Rayner is a 2015 graduate of the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University with a specialization in paintings conservation. Kari completed her fourth year internship at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  In addition to interning at... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Riverside West Exhibit Hall Exhibit Level, East Tower
  9. Poster, Paintings