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There were some voids, where the gesso had lifted from the wood or where the wood had been lost – these were filled by injecting a reversible filler with a syringe to prevent them from caving in the future or under pressure from the top.

There were also a number of small gesso fragments which were found in the frame, which could be relocated.

Removing old adhesive under a microscope ©

Under microscopic examination it was possible to establish the surface condition of the gesso and paint layers.

Generally the paint was stable across the surface.  The most fragile areas were specific to the red pigment on the figures as well as some of the black. Here the pigment was lifting dramatically and consolidation was essential in order to prevent loss.

Consolidants were applied with a fine brush in combination with a wetting agent, so that the consolidant would be drawn into the material by capillary action.  The conservation treatment of the paint surface was approached from an archaeological point of view.

The degree of restoration was therefore kept to the minimum needed for the stabilisation of the object. It was decided that the structural gaps should be filled shallow and toned out to a neutral colour so that they would blend with the object but remain clearly distinguishable.

Many thanks to Colin Bowles conservation studio for their assistance on this project.

February 2013