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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Something’s afoot!

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , paintings conservation , Zaragoza , retablo

wooden frame on Retablo of Saint Peter


Some of the work on the years-long conservation of Zaragoza’s Retablo of Saint Peter requires working in three dimensions.  The eighteen paintings currently comprising the retablo, or altarpiece, were dismantled and reconfigured into the eight more-or-less portable pieces that entered our collection in 1960.  Sometime during that or an earlier renovation of the complex wooden structure, one of the “feet” at the base of a frame member was lost.  It was replaced with a wax reproduction that, while similar in appearance to the rest of the feet, provided no support to the heavy gilded and painted scene when it stood upright.  In the photo, the shape of a new wood foot is being checked during carving.  It’s fitted in place while the panel comprised of two joined scenes lays flat on a table.  The other foot on the panel’s frame is used as a guide for the new carved piece. The new piece will be adhered in place using a conservation grade adhesive and painted to match the frame.  It will provide much better support for the heavy panel once it’s back in the gallery.


Image Credit: Lorenzo Zaragoza (Spanish, active 1363-1406), Retablo of Saint Peter (detail), c. 1400, tempera and gold on wood, The Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial fund, 1960.473.