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Exhibitions and Projects
5 March–1 April 2015

Revelations, March 2015

Conservation-restoration treatment of the decorative frame of the Annunciation altarpiece by Martin Johann Kremser-Schmidt

Kremser-Schmidt's painting of the Annunciation from 1771 is coming back to the permanent exhibition of the National Gallery of Slovenia in its one-time magnificent image, that is to say, framed in the original, typically Baroque-styled decorative frame. It excels in a great variety of animated ornaments carved in wood and in the use of toned and alternately burnished or matte gilding.

The frame suffered several sorts of damage in the course of time; the most apparent were numerous missing flowers on the basic rail and broken off pointed leaf tops of the main foliage ornaments. The consequences of old repairs in which the damaged gilding was retouched with improper materials and the gleam of the surfaces was recovered by means of different sorts of finishes, applied also over soiling material, were also visually evident. Extensive damage and changes required long-lasting conservation-restoration treatment of all constituent layers of the frame, because of which it had to be temporarily replaced with another one.

The year-long conservation-restoration treatment of the frame was carried out as part of the diploma work of Tonka Mohar, a student in the programme of restoration at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana, in the school-year 2013–14. Within the scope of the work, the following tasks were also performed: the profile of the basic rail was drawn, the construction of the frame was meticulously described, original techniques of gilding and toned gold were distinctly identified.

Surface cleaning was initially performed. Part of soiling material is water-soluble, which represents a problem when attempts are made to remove it from water sensitive surfaces. Hence the gilding, originally done with water-soluble binder and being also damaged and unvarnished, is even more sensitive. Several dry and/or wet methods were employed which were adequately adapted to the surface being cleaned in order to efficiently, controllably, safely and selectively separate layers of soil from the underlying layers. After the cleaning was completed it turned out that in some sections dirt was entrapped under the varnish which should have been removed to achieve effective final results of the procedure, but varnish removal was done only locally.

The most demanding part of the intervention proved to be the replacement of the missing parts of the wooden support. Twenty-three of the sixty-three missing flowers were made by means of moulds taken from the preserved flowers, and the missing apexes of leaf ornamentation were modelled directly. Next to be done on the replaced elements was the preparation of suitable gesso and bole layers for gilding; this was done by employing classical materials and techniques which enable gold to be burnished to achieve the adequate gleam. The specific feature of the original use of differently toned gold was also repeated on the surfaces that were re-gilded. The final appearance still had to be properly adapted to the patina of time on the surrounding original, at some points also by imitating cracks on the gilding.

Martina Vuga
Ferdinand Šerbelj

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

5 March–1 April 2015
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana