The Study of Stages and Operations Involved in the Preservation and Restoration of two XIX-th Century Icons, on Wooden Support

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Abstract

The paper presents the stages and the operations involved in the preservation and restoration of two icons on wooden support, from the XIX-th century, which are part of the heritage of the ”Sfinții Arhangheli Mihail and Gavriil” church, from Galați. The two icon have inventory numbers as part of the collection as followed: 112 for the first icon and 113 for the second one. Both icons have the same theme, ”The Grieving Mother from Rohia” and are made by anonymous painters in egg tempera, on lime wooden support, without ground. Being part of the same collection, they were deposited in the same place and as a direct consequence, they suffer from similar deteriorations and degradations that affect both the support and the painting layer. Both panels are attacked by xylophagous insects and the painting layer has detachments, gaps, cracks, clogged dirt and a cracked and degraded varnish layer. Ten samples taken from the already detached areas were analyzed by optical microscope, SEM-EDX and micro-FTIR. Based on the chemical elements identified in the EDX spectrums, the pigments used to create the painting layer are: ultramarine natural blue Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4, carbon black, earth green, K[(Al,FeIII),(FeII,Mg)](AlSi3,Si4)O10(OH)2, ocher (FeO), burned or natural umber Fe2O3· H2O + MnO2·n H2O+ Al2O3, lead white (2PbCO3·Pb(OH)2) and yellow iron oxide (Fe2O3·4H2O). It was also determined that the gold leaf usually used in byzantine icons was replaced in the case of both icons: the icon number 112 has silver leaf covered with varnish, while the halo of the icon number 113 was created with yellow metallic pigments (realgar or orpigment).The pigments were also identified by determining specific peaks in micro-FTIR spectrums. For natural ultramarine blue the peaks between 628 - 724 cm-1 were assigned; the peaks in the interval 795 - 887 cm-1 confirm the presence of carbonates (calcium and lead based). The earth green pigment (aluminum - silicates) had the peaks between 1464 - 1599, while the carbon black pigment was confirmed by the peaks in the interval 921 - 1060 cm-1. After the pigments and the materials used by the author were identified, the restoration process begun with the following stages: consolidation of the painting layer (fish glue 8% and japanese paper), stopping the xylophagous attack (encapsulation with nitrogen), consolidation of the wood supports (colophon and wax, 1:1), cleaning the painting layer (ethylic alcohol and distilled water, 1:1), filling the gaps and reintegrating the fillings in tratteggio, all followed by the process of varnishing the two icons.

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