Investigation and conservation of a panoramic wallpaper Les Vues du Bresil from 1829

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Publication Type:

Journal Article

Authors:

Brichzin, Ulrike; Herm, Christoph;

Source:

Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number S1, p.36-42 (2012)

Abstract:

From 1829 the Zuber printing shop at Rixheim, Alsace, France, produced a series of 30 lengths of wallpaper titled Les Vues du Brésil, which were based on drawings by the painter J.M. Rugendas. Images and colours were hand-printed in multiple layers on prepared paper. One incomplete issue of this wallpaper had decorated a villa in Großschönau, Saxony, Germany, since the first half of the nineteenth century. Following more than 30 years in very bad storage conditions, the salvaged wallpapers had been kept in the Museum of Ethnology, Dresden, Germany, since 1984. Technical examination was carried out on the paper support and painting materials. The single paper sheets were made from handmade mulberry paper. The unusually large format implies that they could have been made only in Asia. The blue pigment used for the sky was synthetic ultramarine, while the wallpaper was shown to have been made prior to or in 1830. This is a remarkably early use of this pigment for wallpaper, considering the production date. Furthermore, a range of other synthetic pigments typical for the nineteenth century was identified. The water-based binders are vegetable gum and protein. Extensive damage to both paper support and paint layers was observed before conservation. Colour change in the blue paint areas was found to be caused by fading of the pigment and formation of a superficial white layer of gypsum. A conservation treatment was developed, including surface cleaning, consolidation of the painted side, separation from the supporting slab, cleaning of the reverse, cleaning and consolidation on the suction table, completion of the support, retouching using hatching with watercolours, and lining.