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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: In the nick of time!

by Conservation


CAMConservation , behind the scenes , varnish samples

We’re still unearthing treasures as we unpack and settle back into our renovated Paintings/Object lab.  In this case, it’s a board of brushed-on varnish samples that are more than 30 years old.

The recipes for each of the varnishes, some made with naturally occurring resins and some with synthetic resins, were listed on a piece of paper taped to the back of the board, along with the dates when each was were applied.   Details about the underlying paints are also listed.  The brittle and crumbling paper was rescued just in the nick of time, while the writing is still legible.

As you can see, the varnishes at the top of the board have yellowed considerably due to thirty years of exposure to light.  These are the natural resin varnishes that our paintings conservator would not use today without adding compounds that slow the oxidation, or yellowing.

The other varnishes haven’t deteriorated much, if at all.  We’ve re-hung the board in the Paintings/Objects lab where it will continue to receive loads of natural and artificial light.  We’ve reproduced the information sheet and taped it to the back of the board.  Present and future paintings conservators will be able to check it for another thirty years!