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Saturday, June 1 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Paintings) Practical Applications of a Constant Tension Elastic Stretching System

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This talk will present the history, development and ongoing research of a constant tension elastic stretching system for canvas paintings. An overview will present examples of various configurations of the system followed by an in-depth case study of its particular use on two paintings in The Rijksmuseum, the Battle of Waterloo (Rijksmuseum SK-A-1115), one of the largest paintings to which the system has been applied and a large oil canvas wall painting, A Dutch Landscape (permanent loan Amsterdam Museum BK-2011-42)

Keyable wood stretchers have changed little since their introduction in the 18th century. In the 19th century the first spring systems were applied. But they retained basic corner expansion, and often springs were too strong, thus unable to compress during contraction cycles, leading to damage.

In the 1950’s Roberto Carita, at the Instituto Centrale per il Restauro in Rome, introduced a new principle for elastic spring tension based on a fixed wooden strainer, allowing the painting to expand and contract along the entire perimeter with evenly distributed tension. In the 1990’s, Antonio Iaccarino Idelson furthered research on the method and adapted it to the conservation of original stretchers. During research a survey quantifying tension of the same mock-up painting was carried out by over 100 experienced Italian conservator-restorers bringing about a greater understanding of the forces needed in stretching lined and unlined paintings. The use of measured values of tension that can be applied to each painting has brought new relevant information to the field. Iaccarino and Carlo Serino, conservator-restorers in Rome, Italy, have applied this method of elastic stretching to numerous paintings throughout Europe. Different configurations have been applied to large and small, lined and unlined paintings. Both easel and ceiling paintings have benefited by adapting existing stretchers or by utilizing new stretchers.

Treatment of the Rijksmuseum painting, The Battle of Waterloo, is a good illustration of the method. The painting was completed in 1824 by Jan Willem Pieneman (1779-1853) as a memorial to the defeat of Napoleon’s forces by the allied Seventh Coalition armies under the Duke of Wellington. King Willem I of the Netherlands purchased it for his son the Crown Prince, later Willem II, who was wounded in the battle and is depicted in the painting. Still owned by the royal family, it has been on permanent loan to the Rijksmuseum since it’s opening in 1883.

The painting is wax-lined and measures 5,67 x 8,23 meters. It is one of the largest freestanding paintings in the Netherlands. In 2002 when the museum closed for renovation the painting was rolled for storage. In 2012 it was restretched and rehung in a newly renovated gallery.

The Pieneman painting had previously been stretched on a traditional keyable wood stretcher. For the restretching, the painting has been attached to a custom-made aluminum constant elastic tension stretcher. Rather than being statically held by tacking, the painting is now mobile, held by springs, which allows the painting to maintain constant tension while adjusting to any dimensional changes brought about by changing environmental conditions.

Tension on a traditional stretcher relies on pulling during attachment and/or keying out after attachment. Keying plays the dominant role with lined paintings and with large paintings keying plays the only role in achieving final overall tension. Keying then creates irregular tension that focuses bigger forces in the corners of the painting.

A similar system was applied to a large canvas wall painting by Jurriaan Andriessen (1742-1819), dated 1776, depicting a Dutch landscape. It was also wax lined and measured 3,3 x 5,4 meters. This painting had been in storage on a poorly designed roll for over 50 years and was badly distorted. In this case, the picture was first attached to a new keyable wood stretcher, but with unsatisfactory results in reducing the distortions. The stretcher then was adapted to the constant tension elastic spring system and the painting was reattached with greatly improved results.

This type of stretching system has proved useful for the Amsterdam paintings and other case studies presented. The relevance of this new understanding and method becomes clear when considering its influence on stress distribution and potential crack formation. The benefit to paintings in general and to large sized modern paintings should also be recognizable.


Antonio Iaccarino Idelson

Conservation of Canvas Paintings Professor, University of Urbino
Antonio Iaccarino Idelson was born in Naples in 1966. After completing a diploma in wood conservation in Florence, he went on to study conservation of paintings and architectural surfaces from the Istituto Centrale di Restauro of Rome, graduating in 1993. After his studies he worked... Read More →

Carlo Serino

Founder, Equilibrarte
Carlo Serino graduated in conservation of paintings and architectural surfaces from the Istituto Centrale di Restauro of Rome in 1992. He then started his own firm and between 1993 and 2002 he worked as conservator on a wide variety of materials, with the Istituto Centrale del Restauro... Read More →

Laurent Sozzani

Senior Paintings Restorer, Private Practice Amsterdam
After 22 years working at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam as a senior paintings restorer(1990-2012). Laurent Sozzani has left the museum via a government pre-pension scheme. He continues working as a private paintings restorer of old master, modern and contemporary paintings in an Amsterdam... Read More →

Lisette Vos

Junior Paintings Conservator, Rijksmuseum
Lisette Vos is a junior paintings conservator. She graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a Master degree and Professional Doctorate in Conservation and Restoration of Paintings in 2010. During her studies she was an intern at Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL... Read More →

Saturday June 1, 2013 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
JW Marriott Grand Ballroom 3 & 4 19 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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