Mechanism of craquelure pattern formation on panel paintings

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Leszek Krzemień; Michał Łukomski; Łukasz Bratasz; Roman Kozłowski; Marion F. Mecklenburg;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number 6, p.324-330 (2016)


The drying shrinkage accumulation from exposure of freshly prepared gesso layers to relative humidity (RH) cycles was determined to elucidate the mechanism of craquelure pattern formation on panel paintings. The progresive drying shrinkage of the gesso is observed only under the cycles going to high RH levels which bring about transitions from brittle to ductile state of the material. The first incidence of fracture on the gesso layers occurred after a limited number of cycles ranging between a few and 100 for a range of layer thickness between 0.5 and 1 mm. The craquelure patterns stabilised also after a limited number of cycles (30 for the 1-mm thick layer). Upon increase in the gesso layer thickness, the strength of the layer is reduced and the spacing of shrinkage fractures increases. The study demonstrated that craquelure patterns, mimicking historical ones, can be realistically produced in laboratory conditions. Such studies would provide useful information for preparing specimens simulating historic panel paintings and would inform the current efforts on automatic, computer-aided classifications of crack formations on paintings.