Restoration of the oil painting Carnival by Max Beckmann, supported by vibration measurements
Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
Dr Kerstin Kracht,
01-Apr-17 to 30-Jun-18
The oil painting Carnival (also known as Pierrette and Clown) by Max Beckmann was painted in Frankfurt in 1925.
Max Beckmann has depicted himself and his second wife, Quappi, in the costumes of Italian commedia dell’arte characters – a double portrait, dressed for Mardi Gras. Beckmann’s Pierrette and Clown is one of a series of carnival depictions in which the artist portrays himself.
Condition before restoration:
• Poorly tensioned portrait-format canvas (160 cm x 100 cm), incorrectly stretched at the edges, with cracks and holes at the bottom corners and poor paint layer adhesion in places.
• The paint (not analysed) is predominantly thin and matt, but applied impasto in parts, such as in the flesh tones and the white.
• Little incipient craquelure due to shrinkage; unvarnished.
• The paint layer has come away from the substrate, above all in the partly brittle and splintery green.
• There is protrusion damage throughout the paint layer.
• The layers of paint have been rubbed in various places.
• Various parts of the layers of paint are dirty.
Vibration behaviour before restoration:
The vibration behaviour of the painting before the restoration was largely determined by the condition of the canvas and the uneven and insufficient clamping. The regions in which the vibration amplitude values were particularly high correlated with the locations of paint layer flaking, e.g. in the blue dress. There were free and uncontrolled vibrations in the eigenmodes in all three configurations. In addition, the first eigenfrequencies of the painting before restoration were very low. The glass and the protection on the back of the unrestored painting led to a slight increase in the eigenfrequencies and a reduction of the vibration amplitudes.
To sum up: The vibrations nevertheless have large amplitudes and low eigenfrequencies, so the locally uncontrolled oscillations mean there is a permanent mechanical load on the painting with a high risk potential.
The restoration should include implementing optimum vibration protection for the painting and answering the question of whether glass is necessary.
The project involves measuring the vibration behaviour of the painting in various configurations before and after restoration.
1. Measurements of the vibration properties of the painting before restoration in the following configurations:
i. With protective backing, with glass
ii. With protective backing, without glass
iii. Without protective backing, without glass
2. Analysis of the condition of the painting in incident, oblique and transmitted light with the help of a magnifying glass and a microscope as well as by means of characteristic vibration waveforms of the painting in the individual configurations.
4. Restoration of the painting:
5. Measurements of the vibration properties of the painting after restoration in the following configurations:
i. Without protective backing, without glass
ii. With protective backing applied outside the central area, with glass
6. Optimization of the protective backing
7. Measurements of the vibration properties of the painting in the following configuration:
i. With protective backing applied over the whole surface, with glass
Measurement of the vibration behaviour of the restored painting without vibration protection or glass shows clear elevation of the first eigenfrequency. This is because of the tighter clamping, the significantly greater number of clamping nails, the mastic work and the strengthening. The measurements have clearly shown that vibration protection over the whole surface is the only method that can prevent uncontrolled vibrations of the canvas. This result plus the fact that the first eigenfrequency is 15 Hz and the vibration amplitudes have been reduced by 95% mean that the project’s objectives were achieved.
• Vibration symposium “Anything can vibrate!”
• Article in Restauro
• Video contribution on Vimeo
Katrin Radermacher (restorer, Kunsthalle Mannheim)
Daniela Hedinger (freelance restorer, Stuttgart)
Prof. Utz von Wagner (TU Berlin)
Alexander Skupin (TU Berlin)
Dr Kerstin Kracht