The paintings conservation laboratory was established in 1981; one conservator was on staff at that time. Currently, two conservators care for paintings in all media at Carnegie Museum of Art.
The paintings laboratory is equipped with a vacuum hot table, a spray booth/exhaust system, a lead-lined x-ray unit, a large wall-mounted x-ray light box for assembly and study of x-radiographs, a stereo-binocular microscope, ultraviolet light stands, an ultraviolet fluorescence/polarized light microscope, roll storage, easels, photographic equipment, storage areas, and built-in cabinetry.
Additionally, the paintings conservators have participated in research projects in conjunction with the Center on the Materials of the Artist and Conservator at Carnegie Mellon University.
Paintings recently treated in preparation for the recent Scaife Galleries reinstall include:
Jules Bastien-Lepage, A Peasant, c. 1880; 98.4
Joseph R. Woodwell, The Gorge, 1899; 16.4
Joseph R. Woodwell, Harvest Hay, c. 1888; 59.5.25
Surfaces cleaned and/or discolored varnish removed. Tacking edges checked and repaired as deemed necessary. Flaking paint consolidated. Losses filled and/or toned. Harvest Hay (left) had its old glass removed and replaced with a non-reflective acrylic; as it’s on laminated pressed paperboard it also requires the additional protection.
Other recent and current projects include:
Jan Rombouts the Elder; The Birth of St. John the Baptist, c.1515–1520; 81.80
Major treatment, including structural panel work done at the Metropolitan Museum to remove an old panel cradle with stuck cross member battens, and reinforcement of an old join which was separating. Painting required varnish removal, selected discolored and ill-defined overpaint removal. Some retouches were determined to be the only historical image information left as removal of those resulted in unveiling underdrawing (imprimatura). These retouches were toned and modified to match the cleaned surface. All losses were filled, and retouches were subsequently toned with watercolors and restoration colors in a stable synthetic binder. The new varnish coats saturate the dark tones and result in an enamel-like quality.
Morris Louis, Green Thought, 1958; 95.15
Thanks to grant support from the Morris Louis Conservation Fund, the painting was restretched onto a new custom-made expansion bolt/tite-joint fastener style stretcher. The stretcher was preliminarily lined with muslin to give additional support via fiber-to-fiber bonding to this oversized work. Tacking edge splits were repaired with muslin and a stable heat activated adhesive film. A local contracted Textile Conservator, Christine Maurhoff, aided in this project.
Alessandro Allori (attributed to), Portrait, probably of Isabella de' Cosimo I de Medici, c. 1574; 78.10.2
This is a work in progress, taking a sixteenth-century Florentine noblewoman back to her original appearance after having gone through a Victorian “youth and beauty” overpaint treatment for the purposes of resale. X-rays taken before treatment showed the painted out presence of an alabaster urn and a somewhat older face. The urn and uncovered halo remnants are believed to indicate that Isabella had herself painted in the guise of the penitent Mary Magdalene.