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Conservation Treatment of Severin Roesen Painting

The IMA has partnered with the Conner Prairie Museum for the long term loan of a Severin Roesen still life painting. In exchange for the loan, the painting is undergoing conservation treatment at the IMA. The treatment will be completed so that the painting can hang in the IMA’s American Galleries by June 2010.

Overall, the painting is in relatively good condition. There is one minor damage, a small tear in the left side, and some areas where cracks in the paint are unstable. Aesthetically, the painting is obscured by heavy layers of dirt, soot, and discolored varnish. Underneath those layers lie the delicate flowers with glistening dew drops for which Roesen is so well known.

The treatment will be completed so that the painting can hang in the IMA’s Early American Gallery by June 2010.

Before treatment the dull, hazy, and darkened appearance is the result of many decades’ worth of dirt, soot, and discolored varnish.

The heavy dirt and soot were removed with an aqueous solution adjusted to a particular pH and containing chelators.

Once the grey dirt and soot were cleaned from the surface, varnish removal began.

The process of varnish removal.

With the surface dirt and soot removed, one can already appreciate the original vibrancy of the colors. Part of the left side has been cleaned to remove the old, yellow varnish. You can really see this in the pink roses and the white flowers. Subtle cool undertones have been revealed, increasing the depth of the composition.

This detail taken during the varnish removal gives you a closer look at how the aged yellow varnish affected the appearance of the colors.

For a paintings conservator, treatments like this one are very rewarding. There is going to be a dramatic difference between the before and after image because the visual effects that so many discoloring layers have on the original are quite profound.

Christina Milton O’Connell and Stephanie West take a closer look at the Roesen in the painting conservation lab at the IMA. (Photo taken by Aaron Steele)

A step by step account will be presented in a second blog once the conservation treatment is complete. For more discussion of the conservation process, here’s a short video with Christina Milton O’Connell, Associate Conservator of Paintings at the IMA, and Stephanie West, Conservation Technician at Conner Prairie.

Thanks again to Conner Prairie for sharing this lovely painting with the IMA and its visitors.

Filed under: Art, Conservation

4 Responses to “Conservation Treatment of Severin Roesen Painting”

  • avatar
    Nancy Valencia Says:

    I found this very informative and look forward to the second part of the conservation of this Severin Roesen still life painting.

  • avatar
    Christina Milton O'Connell Says:

    Nancy, I’m so glad you like the post. I hope you can visit the IMA to see the painting in the Ealry American Galleries once the conservation treatment is complete.

  • avatar
    Fan Says:

    Christina is amazing. Also amazing to see the process. Visitors will love seeing any ‘before and after’ photos.

    It is great to see museums working together like this also.

  • avatar
    Amanda Says:

    The conservation treatment itself is practically a work of art; I hope the process continues to go well.

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