Κρητική εικόνα με την παράσταση της εκκλησίας του Αγίου Γεωργίου των Ελλήνων της Βενετίας : Τεχνολογικές παρατηρήσεις - ΣυντήρησηPart of : Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας ; Vol.36, 1995, pages 115-120
A cretan icon of the church of St George of the Greeks in Venice : Technical observations - conservation
The important early 17th century icon (37.5 χ 25 χ 1 cm)depicts the church of St George of the Greeks in Venice,flanked by Sts Nicholas and George. Conservation workwas undertaken on it in the Directorate of Conservation ofAntiquities.This opportunity afforded investigation of the work usinga stereoscopic microscope: certain technical observationswere recorded.The arched panel, made from one plank, is covered withfine linen cloth. Two layers of gesso ground can bedistinguished, each different in colour and the extent ofsurface fissure. The lower layer is of a darker, beigecolour and more severely cracked compared to the upper,something not usual in icons, where the gesso groundmostly appears homogenous to the eye. Damaged areasreveal traces of the original red pigment used for thepreparatory drawing. The fine scratches used for thisoutline were faithfully incised by the painter. The thin paintlayer nevertheless suggests a surface slightly in reliefthanks not only to the use of successive layers common tothe Byzantine tradition but also to the painter's patienttechnique. The painting's technical execution is characterised by great accuracy and perfection. The pigmentsused are fine-grained and well worked. With glazes andbold yet find brushstrokes the painter depicts his subject.The brighter colours -vermillion, green and red lake- areevenly distributed. Now, however, this balance has beendisturbed thanks to the green having turned into black. Itis thought that this is due to the chemical transition thatoccurs when green verdigris pigment is used in a copperresinate solution, or when it comes into contact with theresin used for the varnish. The ground is of burnishedgold laid over a layer of dark orange bole, while theexpertly executed gold lines use gold leaf in the mordantgilding technique. The original varnish was applied in athin layer: hard, dark brown due to oxidization, andcontaining oil.The serious damage that the work has sustained was dueto bad conditions of maintenance as well as to humanintervention. The severely warped panel had been brokeninto three pieces and was much weakened due to insects.Many damaged areas were scattered throughout bothpainted surface and underpainting. A hard, tarnishedlayer of oxidised and transmuted varnish covered thepainted surface.The work underwent conservation and aesthetic interventions as was deemed fit. The panel, following acleansing process of the reverse side which did notdisturb the old layer, was disinfected and strengthenedwith injections of acrylic resin Paraloid B72, dissolved intrichloroethane. The pieces were then joined togetherwith Polyvinyl acetate (PVAC). The parts of the woodweakened by insect activity were reinforced with woodstucco made from a mixture of fine sawdust and PVAC.Surface dirt was then removed from the painting, afterwhich the recent varnish layer was gradually removed.The original varnish layer was only partially removedusing solvents and mechanical techniques. As a basicconservation principle, it was decided to preserve part ofthe original varnish layer since it protected the surfaceglazes and in general the "skin" of the painting as itdeveloped over the passage of time within the context ofthe ageing process undertaken by the materials. It wasthus possible to balance the worn with the less worn partsof the painting in a aesthetic framework. In the course ofthe painting's restoration, water-colours were used. Thework was varnished with "vernis à retoucher" producedby "Lefranc et Bourgeois".