Loans, Loans, Loans

Over the past few months in the studio most of our time has been spent preparing paintings for the Museum’s busy loans programme.

In early April we completed treatment of two mid 19th century panel paintings depicting ships in the harbour that were sent to the André Malraux Museum of Modern Art (MuMa) in Le Havre, along with the Museum’s well-known Boudin painting: Beach Scene at Low Tide, for inclusion in their eponymous exhibition: ‘Eugène Boudin, Craftsman in Light’.

2 1068 BT
Ships in Small Anchorage‘ [BM 1068], framed, before treatment
3 1043 BT
A View in the Port of Le Havre, France‘ [BM 1043] framed, before treatment
The panels were both painted by B. Cassinelli, a lesser-known contemporary of Boudin and had been kept in store.  The panel I treated was particularly interesting however as it was signed ‘E. Boudin & Cassinelli’ and was requested by MuMA as they believed it could be reattributed as the sole work of Boudin.

4 Signature
Detail of signature at bottom right corner of ‘A View in the Port of Le Havre, France‘ [BM 1043]
Only time (or technical analysis) will tell whether it is possible to prove a reattribution, however the panel’s appearance was certainly improved for any closer inspection.  Conservation of both panels entailed the removal of years of surface dirt and discoloured varnish.

5 Cleaning 1043
Removing discoloured varnish layer on ‘A View in the Port of Le Havre, France‘ [BM 1043]
Paint loss along the edges caused by the ill- fitting frames also caused a visual disruption and were reintegrated into the picture by inpainting with pigments bound in Paraloid B72, before being given a final varnish to saturate the colours.

Conservation treatment was also necessary on both of the frames to make them safe for travel and display: such as lining the rebate, centering the panels with spacers, and adding a build up to the reverse of the frame to accommodate a backing.  We chose to add a clear, thick Melinex backing to both frames, so that labels on the back of the panels could be viewed.  I added a handy cotton tape pull-tab to the back of my panel, adhered with high-tack fish glue (chosen for its strength and reversibility with water), to allow for easier unframing.  

5 Back view of 1043
Reverse view of BM 1043 framed after treatment, fitted with build-up and Melinex backing. Also note the handy cotton pull tab attached to back of panel!
6 Back view of 1068
Reverse view of BM 1068, with build-up and clear Melinex backing, to enable viewing of labels
7 1043 and loan report
BM 1043 after treatment, and ready to be wrapped for collection to Le Havre, with accompanying Condition Report for Loan

After cleaning the soiled surface with deionised water, I replaced the lost corner ornaments on the front of frame with Milliput® which was moulded into shape and retouched with gold pigments.  On the second frame, an obscuring layer of non-original matt gold paint was carefully removed with swabs of organic solvents to reveal a gilded (albeit quite worn) surface beneath.  Although not contemporary to the panel, this treatment was simple way to greatly improve a rather drab modern frame.

8 Detail of 1068 frame during treatment
Removing the matt gold paint from BM 1068 frame, to reveal original gilding beneath
9 1068 whole front view framed AT
BM 1068 After conservation of painting and frame

My training in frames conservation continued working on the large Turner frame for his painting of Lowther Castle [BM2013.1].  The painting itself was in good condition, having recently undergone full conservation treatment.  The gilding on the frame however had begun to flake and required consolidation with isinglass before travelling to Provence.

10 Working on Turner frame
Consolidating flaking gilding on the Turner frame [BM.2013.1]
And to round off our loans schedule for paintings, last week I was condition checking some real beauties for our latest exhibition English Rose: Feminine Beauty from Van Dyke to Sargent, which runs until 25th September 2016.

11 Sneak preview of Sargent
A sneak preview of a Sargent portrait [COMWG.568] from the Watts Gallery, Guilford, in the conservation studio for assessment

Pauline Murray, ICON/HLF Paintings Conservation Intern

Icon HLF logo


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