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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: A Thorny Issue!

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , paintings conservation , European Painting & Sculpture , Zaragoza

Retablo of Saint Peter in conservation


Our paintings conservator is working on the last few paintings of the eighteen that comprise the Retablo of Saint Peter by Lorenzo Zaragoza. Here, Madonna, one of the small panels from the bottom row of the 11’ x 10’ altarpiece, watches the conservation treatment. Losses that have been filled with white putty are being leveled and textured to match the surrounding original surfaces. The gold-gilded background has been decorated, or punched, with small depressions that form an attractive design. A far flung conservation colleague published an account of using natural botanical thorns to clean punched gilding designs, and we were able to acquire a supply. The thorn is sharp enough to remove embedded material, like the putty shown here, but does not damage the fragile original gold leaf. When the thorn wears down, our conservator just picks up a new one. We expect the retablo to go back on view in Gallery 203 in 2018.


Image Credit: Lorenzo Zaragoza (Spanish, active 1363-1406), Spanish, Madonna (detail) from Retablo of Saint Peter, tempera, gold and silver on wood, 116 3/4 x 108 1/8 in. 1960.473, Cincinnati Art Museum, The Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial, 1960.473.