paintings; panel paintings; conservation; wood
Until the early 17th century almost all portable paintings were created on wood
supports, including masterpieces by famous painters, ranging from Giotto to Dürer
to Rembrandt. The structural conservation of these paintings requires specific
knowledge and skills as the supports are susceptible to damage caused by unstable
Unfortunately, past structural interventions often caused significant damage due
to insufficient knowledge of the behaviour of the wood panels, glue and paint
layers. Over the last fifty years, the field has developed treatment strategies based
on interdisciplinary collaboration and on the knowledge of specialist conservators.
Most current conservation protocols rely on empirical knowledge of conservators
and are not necessarily based on a scientific understanding of the nature and
behaviour of wood and paint layers.
In order to move the field forward, it is imperative to strengthen scientific research
into the production methods, ageing and future behaviour of panel paintings,
being an intricate interplay between different materials. A deeper understanding of
the processes that adversely affect panel paintings over time will contribute to the
improved care and conservation of these artworks.
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Rijksmuseum
Amsterdam brought together a group of experts from different disciplines to
recommend specific areas in the field that would benefit from systematic research.
The experts concluded that targeted interdisciplinary research projects are key to
understanding the behaviour of panel paintings and help conservators make better
informed decisions. Research into chemical and physical properties of wood, glue
and paint layers should be combined with an evaluation of past and current
conservation treatments. Research should also consider the history of the object,
studio practice, conservation history and thoughts on long-term impact of