Tests reveal aging of a Da Vinci master piece. Bark beetles and old age have damaged Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th-century painting “Lady with an Ermine,” but the masterpiece is still holding up well, according to a conservationist at the Polish museum where it is displayed.
Recent tests show the chestnut board on which Leonardo painted his masterpiece has weakened after being nibbled at by beetles over the centuries, and the painting has also suffered from a dense network of cracks.
One of only four existing female portraits by Leonardo, the oil painting shows a young woman in three-quarter profile wearing a sumptuous low-cut red and blue dress as she holds a white ermine, an animal also known as a stoat. Historians believe the subject was Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, when she was 16 or 17. Leonardo painted it around the year 1490.
The painting is 500 years old and has been subject to all the processes of aging. Still, all things considered, it is in very good condition, thanks to the technology that da Vinci used.
Here are 10 easy steps to follow to give your paintings 500 years of life:
1. Examine them periodically and carefully. Look for signs of deterioration that may require treatment.
2. If it is a stretched painting, is the canvas buckled at the corners, split at the tacking edge or looking very brittle on the turned over edge? If so, the painting may need lining or at the very least the edges may need lining.
3. Look for tiny holes, which could possibly mean wood boring insects in the stretcher. If seen, consider having it stretched on new wood. The painting should be taught, not wavy or buckling.
4. Is the paint layer flaking or losing particles of paint? If so, lay the painting flat in a safe place until it can be fixed.
5. Is the paint cloudy or opaque looking? The humidity may be too high or the painting once was stored in a very humid environment.
6. Check the hardware. Is the wire cord frayed and are the brackets and screws securely attached? Can the picture hook hold the weight of the painting? A heavy picture requires two hooks
7. Dust and lint can be removed with a soft natural hair brush or soft cloth. A piece of velvet works very well, however do not do this if there are any signs of loose or flaking paint as they will catch and be pulled off. Any cleaning should be done by a trained restorer.
8. Avoid hanging paintings over a fireplace or a heater because of exposure to soot and heat. Likewise they should not be hung directly below air conditioning ducts or in direct sunlight.
9. Kitchens and bathrooms also are not good environments for paintings because of smoke and humidity.
10. When storing paintings, be mindful of the environmental conditions.
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