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Subject: Micah Williams

Micah Williams

From: Tim Vitale <tjvitale<-a>
Date: Friday, February 15, 2008
I am examining and proposing a major treatment for one of two Micah
William pastels (19 inch vertical rip) on strainers.  I treated a
Williams' pastel when much younger, but have no recent access to
early 19th century American pastels, or art historic studies of such
items.  I've worked on plenty of chalk-over-photo, on paper, on
paper on canvas and on cardboard but no recent early 19th century
American pastels on strainers.

The two pastels (husband and wife) are both are 21 x 25 21 1/16 x 25
1/8 inches), with newsprint dated 1824-26.  Micah Williams was
active 1790-1833.  Both pastels have 4-layer supports (attached
around the edges only): (1) main, (2) soft brown paper, (3) soft
brown paper #2 and (4) newspaper (one has 2-layers of newsprint).
This "layer structure" is attached to the 1/2 inch thick by 2 inch
wide historic strainer with some moderately-weak adhesive;
separation from strainer seems possible in tests; one was separated
in 1965 (see below).

The reverse of the pastel's main support seems to have regions of
chalk (white pigment) applied to the reverse.  Well, that's the way
it looks now, I could be wrong.  I haven't taken the layer structure
completely apart because I'm still examining, with approval to test,
but without approval to proceed, so this is just a guess based on
the area of the face and neck exposed on reverse.

My question is with the appearance on the front.  Where the regions
of white (seen on reverse) abut the regions of brown deterioration
(seen on reverse, especially in the hair) there are thin "white"
lines of demarcation (thin gaps in the pastel media) on the front.
The lines go around the face, outline parts of the hair and outline
the white area of the male sitter's shirt where it abuts the black
jacket.  This suggests that the there may have been prepared
"portrait" blanks ready to receive the face and shirt-front when
sitter time was at a premium.  This suggests a studio.

A well respected Boston-area paper conservator (now passed on)
treated one of the 3/4-view portraits in 1965.  Someone made an
informal attribution to Micah Williams on the "Conservation Report"
style label.  Both appear to have nearly identical construction and
aesthetic countenance.  They fall into the "aesthetic realm" of
works attributed to Micah Williams.

You can see where I'm going.  It looks like studio work.  Is it or
isn't it?  I'd like to have a phone conversation with anyone who has
insight into this issue.  I'd be happy to make the call, if you send
an email with a couple of times, remembering I'm on the west coast.

Tim Vitale
Paper, Photographs and
Electronic Media Conservator
Film (still) Migration to Digital Format
Digital Imaging and Facsimiles
Preservation and Imaging Consulting
Preservation Associates
1500 Park Avenue
Suite 132
Emeryville, CA 94608
510-594-8277
Fax: 510-594-8799


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                  Conservation DistList Instance 21:44
                Distributed: Saturday, February 23, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-21-44-019
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Received on Friday, 15 February, 2008

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