How do they do that!

by Chris Bertram on July 23, 2003

I took the day off today for a trip to London (free lift from a mate who is a sales rep). The main thing I wanted to do was to go to the National Gallery. I’d been bowled over by a Bellini triptych I’d seen in the church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice recently and planned to look through the Bellinis in the Sainsbury Wing with the aid of the little MP3-player guide they loan you these days. Very useful, except when the number displayed next to the painting fails to correspond with the commentary (the gallery’s only Giotto linked to a commentary on Duccio). Anyway, my attention was drawn to something I’d never noticed before: a number of paintings, originally painted on wood panels, had been transferred at some time in their history to canvas, and in one case to a “synthetic panel”. Probably this is just everyday stuff for art conservators, but it struck me that it was amazing that a whole painting could be lifted off the surface on which it was originally painted and transferred to a new one. How?



PG 07.23.03 at 10:32 pm

Method from 1960s
Support restoration
Panel (skip down to transfer)


Timothy 07.23.03 at 11:13 pm

It’s amazing what can be done in painting conservation today. I’m not an expert on conservation, but have friends who work in museums. They tell me that the conservation lab at the National Gallery is one of the best in the world. The transfer of a painting from panel to another support is often done with vacuum tables.


JRoth 07.25.03 at 9:04 pm

What’s amazing about it? I’m currently in the process of carefully lifting the entirety of my porch’s old paint and relocating it to the inside of a vacuum. Given the size (and thickness) of the chunks, I’m pretty sure you could rebuild the entire thing with only a minimal loss of structural integrity….

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