This week we have been examining the painting from a digital perspective. The conservation team was fortunate enough to borrow a copy of Metigo MAP software produced by the German company, fokus GmbH Leipzig (through a collaboration with University of Delaware).
Metigo MAP is a program used in the fields of architectural planning and art conservation that helps document and diagram conservation issues and the condition of a work of art or artifact. Documentation is a task performed by all professional conservators before, during, and after treatment. Keeping meticulous records is not only an ethical obligation of our profession (AIC Code of Ethics), but it also serves as a reference during treatment. Over the next two years multiple interns will assist on this project, and the records that we are creating now will help inform new team members. The documentation also is a preservation tool and helps relate the complete history of this painting. Although we are removing overpaint from previous restoration campaigns, it is important to record what is being removed so that the public can understand exactly what this canvas has gone through.
We learned more about the applications of Metigo MAP from conservator Emily MacDonald-Korth’s talk, “Speed, precision, and a lighter load: Metigo MAP 3.0, a great advancement in condition mapping for large-scale projects, at the American Institute for Conservation’s 39th Annual Meeting. Metigo MAP is especially useful for large-scale projects such as this one.
Sometimes conservators will draw a diagram by hand, but with something this large, suffering from multiple condition issues, a digital diagram is clearer and more efficient. Metigo MAP also rectifies the image that we import into the software so that all markings and outlines on the diagram are to scale and can be measured in the program. Therefore, we will be able to calculate the total area of the overpaint present once we have outlined it all on Metigo MAP.
Another key feature of the program is the ability to divide condition issues into separate mapped groups, like layers in Adobe Photoshop. This allows us to view all mapped issues at once or view a map of only one condition issue at a time. As we continue to clean the painting, we are revealing more areas of damage and loss that were previously concealed with overpaint. We plan to import a mid-treatment photograph of the painting into Metigo MAP and diagram any newly uncovered damage post-cleaning.
We are also using this project to help build a template in the Metigo program for symbols of common conservation issues and damage that can occur to a painted surface. Then, for future projects we can import the template and Metigo diagrams will be easy to compare because they will utilize the same legend.
Take a look at what we have recorded so far on our in-progress diagram, which clearly demonstrates the vast areas of overpaint that now obscure the artist’s original paint layers. This diagram helps clarify and summarize what we are seeing everyday up close during treatment. The shaded purple zones indicate localized areas of overpaint that were most recently applied to the painting (presumably within the last 100 years). The blue hatching is used to map areas that were vastly overpainted during an earlier restoration attempt. The yellow lines are areas of paint loss while the red outlines demarcate areas of tenting paint. Tenting occurs when the canvas and/or earlier layers of paint expand and shrink deferentially due to gradual changes in relative humidity. These changes cause tension to build in the paint film, and eventually the paint gives way and cleaves into a peak that visually resembles a tent-like formation. Finally the white lines show where a previous application of varnish was not applied evenly and created drips.