Study and Conservation of Wall Painting Scenes

wall painting deterioration

Conservators and scientists from the GCI, HCP and SANP are working together to better understand the flaking and powdering paint of figurative scenes on wall paintings, a typical condition at the site and in the greater Vesuvian archaeological region. These wall painting scenes, uncovered in the 1930s show extensive deterioration, much of which has occurred since excavation. The team is undertaking a comprehensive diagnostic study of the flaking and powdering paint in the figurative scenes in the Tablinum (a reception room opening onto an inner peristyle) of the Casa del Bicentenario, a noble residence of grand proportions with wall paintings of great artistic and archaeological significance. Comparisons will be made with painted scenes from different houses that have been treated; untreated wall painting scenes from recently excavated sites (including the Villa dei Papiri); and from examples found in museum storage. Scientific analysis of samples from these wall paintings will allow the partners to gain a fuller understanding of the original materials and techniques, and agents and mechanisms leading to their deterioration, to develop a methodological approach to their conservation.

Giorgio Torraca

Concurrently, environmental monitoring will be carried out to determine the effects of fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity on the wall paintings. Once the deterioration mechanisms have been established, a holistic conservation plan for the tablinum will be developed. This will include physical repairs to the structure, such as reroofing the room to prevent the ingress of water from above; climate improvement strategies to buffer and stabilize the surrounding environment; and treatment testing.

Based on results of the diagnostic investigation, the next phase of the project is a focused field project to develop and apply a conservation methodology combining scientific study and field practice in a holistic approach to the treatment of the decorated architectural surfaces in the Tablinum, including flaking paint and other deterioration conditions on the wall paintings and treatment of the mosaic pavement.

conservation survey of wall paintings collecting wall painting samples
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wall painting scene Herculaneum detail-wall painting Herculaneum
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Page updated: April 2012