JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 1, Article 5 (pp. 51 to 57)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 1, Article 5 (pp. 51 to 57)

BOOK REVIEWS



BOOK REVIEWS

MALCOLM C. McLAUGHLIN and ALAN S. ZISMAN, THE AQUEOUS CLEANING HANDBOOK: A GUIDE TO CRITICAL-CLEANING PROCEDURES, TECHNIQUES, AND VALIDATION. Rosemount, N.J.: Morris-Lee Publishing Group, 2000. 121 pages, hardcover, $39.95. Also available for free from Alconox, Inc., at www.alconox.com. ISBN 0-9645356-7-X.

The intended audience for this book is people employed in the industrial cleaning sector. Many parts of the book can, however, be informative and useful to conservators, especially considering the relative lack of publications on this topic. Additionally, the price is right, as this very nice hardcover book can be acquired for free by filling out a questionnaire on the Alconox website, www.alconox.com. It is also available as a free download from the Alconox website, though the document is 100 pages long.

Alan Zisman is a medical doctor who earned his degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; he is also the president and director of Alconox, Inc. Malcolm McLaughlin is the vice president of marketing for Alconox and has an MA in chemistry from Columbia. Even though Alconox employs both the authors, the book is surprisingly thorough and unbiased.

There are nine chapters followed by six appendices. All chapters include a short bibliography at the end, which provides a glimpse into the technical literature of the industrial cleaning field.

Chapter 1, titled “What Is an Aqueous Cleaner?” is a useful chapter that provides a basic though technical description of aqueous cleaning. It describes the history of cleaning, defines many of the common technical terms used to describe aqueous cleaning, and compares it to solvent cleaning. Some of the fundamental chemistry of aqueous cleaning is described, including dipole moment and hydrogen bonding. This chapter explains the industrial impetus for the development of aqueous cleaners, which was to reduce the emission of hazardous chemicals into the environment, especially solvent vapors harmful to the ozone layer. To some extent, these developments have been driven by federal regulations.

Chapter 2, “The Chemistry of Aqueous Cleaning,” is primarily a list of definitions of terms related to aqueous cleaning. A large part of this chapter is devoted to describing the different functions of various additives in commercial surfactant solutions that improve their cleaning efficacy. While conservators usually try to avoid cleaning products with numerous unknown additives, certain compounds can safely be added to surfactant solutions to improve their usefulness for conservation, for example, cellulose ethers added as dispersants or ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) added as a chelating agent or sequestering agent. This chapter can be helpful to conservators learning how to design surfactant solutions for specific cleaning needs. Lastly, this chapter describes the effect pH can have on aqueous cleaning efficacy.

Chapter 3, “Aqueous-Cleaning Processes,” is geared specifically toward people cleaning large numbers of objects in an industrial or assembly line fashion. Consequently, many of the techniques described in this chapter are too aggressive for use in conservation.

Chapter 4, “Selecting an Aqueous-Cleaning Detergent,” provides good, solid advice regarding how to choose the right cleaner, depending on the type of material to be cleaned and what has to be removed from it. Though largely irrelevant to conservation, the costs of cleaning agents are surveyed. There are also useful sections regarding health, safety, and environmental considerations.

Chapter 5, “Testing and Selecting a Detergent and Cleaning System,” is largely directed toward industrial users, but it also has useful sections regarding technical evaluation methods for cleanliness and selecting test substrates and test soils.

Chapter 6, “Industrial Cleaning Applications,” specifically deals with problems related to cleaning industrial materials such as those in the health care, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, optics, cosmetics, nuclear, and electronics industries. There is, however, an informative section on cleaning plastics. This section rightly points out that plastics, being carbon-based, are often attractive to organic film residues, a quality that frequently necessitates the use of highemulsifying surfactants to remove such films. This section includes a list of more than 20 plastics, indicating whether they are compatible with mild aqueous cleaners. Of particular interest are the several plastics that require caution even when cleaning with mild aqueous cleaners. These plastics include polycarbonate, nylon, and polymethylmethacrylate.

Stressed polycarbonate in particular is indicated as prone to stress cracking after exposure to low-surface-tension aqueous cleaners and solvents. This chapter also includes a small section on cleaning glass and ceramics.

Chapter 7, “Wastewater Treatment and Cleaner Recycling,” is obviously geared toward industry, but there are several interesting points, specifically regarding testing for surfactant strength by measuring foam height. Additionally, this chapter mentions that pH measurements of surfactant solutions should be made with electrodes rather than pH papers, as surfactants commonly interfere with accurate pH paper readings.

Chapter 8,“Measuring Cleanliness,” is useful and interesting, providing information on some technical methods to measure cleanliness, including an ASTM cleaning standard, available for purchase at the ASTM website, called the “hydrophobic surface film by the water break test.”

Chapter 9, the final chapter, “Environmental Health and Safety Considerations,” discusses hazards to the environment and workplace safety. These issues are always important to know and review periodically.

Appendix 1 is a list of abbreviations, which is somewhat useful. Appendix 2 lists cleaners available from Alconox, the producer of this book, though obviously few of these would be appropriate to conservation. Appendix 3 is a detergent selection guide, though, not surprisingly, it lists only products available from Alconox. Appendix 4 is a glossary, which is very useful. Unfortunately, I found some definitions listed in pages 9‐12 that inexplicably are not listed in the glossary. Appendix 5 lists five case histories that are not applicable to conservation. Finally, the index is very thorough and useful.

In summary, this book can act as an introduction to or refresher on aqueous cleaning. It is always a good idea to keep one's mind open and learn about related fields. However, the reader needs to keep in mind that the intended audience for this book is not conservators.

  • Thomas J. Braun
  • Objects Conservator
  • Conservation Department
  • Minnesota Historical Society
  • 345 Kellogg Blvd. West
  • St. Paul, Minn. 55102-1906

MARGARET MORGAN GRASELLI, WITH ESSAYS BY IVAN E. PHILLIPS, KRISTEL SMENTEK, AND JUDITH C. WALSH, COLORFUL IMPRESSIONS: THE PRINTMAKING REVOLUTION IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art in association with Lund Humphries, 2003. 185 pages, hardcover, $70. Available from Lund Humphries, Suite 420, 101 Cherry St., Burlington, Vt. 05401-4405. ISBN 0-85331-892-1.

Colorful Impressions is the catalog of an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., from October 26, 2003, to February 16, 2004, featuring the gallery's remarkable collection of exquisite French 18th-century color prints, augmented by loans largely from the Ivan Phillips family and the Phillips family collections. This handsome volume, lavishly illustrated in color, begins with four essays: “Color Printing Before 1730,” written by Margaret Morgan Graselli, curator of Old Master drawings at the National Gallery of Art;“An Exact Imitation Acquired at Little Expense: Marketing Color Prints in Eighteenth-Century France” by Kristel Smentek, lecturer in the art department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges; “Ink and Inspiration: The Craft of Color Printing” by Judith Walsh, a senior paper conservator at the gallery; and “A Collector's Perspective” by the collector and connoisseur Ivan Phillips. The carefully researched and well-written essays are followed by detailed catalog entries for each work, written by Graselli, and finally by a brief note by Lehua Fisher and Judith Walsh,“Paper Used in Prints: Watermarks and Observations.” The last introduces a collection of 56 watermarks taken from the cataloged prints, many of them previously unpublished. They have been recorded by beta-radiography and are reproduced here. The volume ends with a short glossary and a bibliography.

Graselli explains her interest in this subject at the outset of this important book: it is completely understandable for a drawings curator to want to study the prints and printmaking techniques that were invented in 18th-century France “specifically to replicate the appearance of drawings” (p. ix). In her essay, Graselli introduces the topic of “colorful impressions” by describing how color was applied to early modern European relief and intaglio prints, distinguishing among color applied freehand or through a stencil, full-printed color, and hybrids that combined printed lines for dark areas of the image, prepared paper for midtones, and hand-applied painted highlights. The last two techniques were well-established drawing traditions. Appropriately, Grasselli concentrates her discussion on the phenomenon of the chiaroscuro woodcut, invented around 1500, as these prints were the earliest to approximate the appearance of drawings in printed form. A hybrid chiaroscuro technique, used by the painters Pamigianino (Francesco Mazzuoli, 1503‐1540) and Domenico Beccafumi (1484‐1551) about 1530, combined an intaglio line plate to capture the quality of drawn pen and ink lines, with one or two woodblocks for tonal areas. It proved to be the most satisfactory way to reproduce drawings until the inventions of the 18th century. Yet, until the 18th century, Graselli concludes, color played a relatively marginal role in the history of printmaking, and its use was experimental or exceptional.

Graselli's clear, systematic, though short and necessarily selective, account is informed and enriched by a wealth of material shared with her by her professional colleagues and from recent publications, in particular those by David Landau and Peter Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470‐1550 (Yale University Press, 1994), and Susan Dackerman, Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance and Baroque Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts (Baltimore Museum of Art, 2002). However, compared to their more broadly based—and, it must be stressed, much longer—studies, Graselli focuses on describing the techniques of early color printing, and her narrative makes little direct reference to the artistic, practical, or economic realities of color print production in the period before 1730.

Kristel Smentek's essay investigates the contextual realities that rendered successful the new color-printing technologies developed in 18th-century France. By providing images in full color, the new processes of color mezzotint and chalk, wash, and pastel manner intensified the mimetic potential of prints. For their original audience, such prints were not mere translations of drawings or paintings, but novel and affordable facsimiles useful for interior decoration, as fashion accessories, and as pedagogical aids. In addition, and in keeping with later 18th-century progressive ideas, color facsimiles made drawn and painted images widely available and accessible to all, thereby serving the public good. They also catered to the desire of middle-class consumers for luxury products that gave pleasure and signified good taste. Smentek's essay focuses on the marketing of these new “populuxe” products, inexpensive versions of luxury items coveted as symbols of an aristocratic lifestyle. Her interdisciplinary approach frames the reception of the products of these new color printing technologies in recent scholarship on consumers and consumption.

Judith Walsh's fascinating essay examines the adaptation of traditional tools and techniques and the devising of new methods and materials between 1755 and 1790 to create some of the most complicated copperplate prints ever made. Basing her descriptions on careful visual examination and comparisons of original prints, as well as on the texts of contemporary French and English technical manuals, she explains clearly and systematically how artist-printers solved the complex practical problems inherent in multiple-plate printing—how to transfer the artist's drawing to each plate in register, how to work each plate as a color separation to hold a single color of ink, and how to print plates in register to produce a legible image.

Walsh investigates newly formulated quick-drying opaque and transparent inks and the strong, soft plate printing paper that were selected to meet artistic and physical demands posed by the new processes. She reports on the National Gallery's analytical identification of colorants in these prints and compares its findings to recommendations given in 18th-century primary sources. Crucially, she warns her readers that because the few transparent inks available to 18th-century printers are vulnerable to damage from light and from the strong solutions once used by restorers, and because resinous colors such as asphaltum and gamboge can be damaged by solvents, impressions that are a pallid single color today may actually have faded rather than being examples of different states or intermediate proofs.

Walsh stresses the difficulties of deciphering the precise techniques used to make multiple-plate prints since printmakers mingled and overlaid various techniques at will to achieve the desired subtle visual effects. For this reason, many media descriptions in the catalog adopt terms that describe the works being imitated—chalk, wash, or pastel manner.

In the fourth essay, Ivan Phillips relates how he came to collect 18th-century French colored prints and describes his fascination with their technical complexity and superb craftsmanship. In part, his motivations are those of their original collectors—he admires the faithfulness with which they reproduce drawings and, matted, framed, and hung on the wall, they are appropriate for the settings in which he chooses to display them. Phillips lists and elaborates on his criteria for deciding which prints to acquire. Important considerations are subject matter, whether the print appeals to him on an aesthetic level, the artist, the qualities and condition of the impression, and its authenticity.

The short separate note by Fisher and Walsh discusses the papers used by printmakers. The authors describe the new requirements for papers intended to receive tonal printing from multiple plates and describe the one type of paper that was acceptable: a smooth, strong, thick, absorbent yet relatively unreactive cream-colored paper associated with papermakers from the papermaking valleys around the town of Ambert in the Auvergne, judging from watermarks found on works in the exhibition. It is unfortunate that discussion of ink and paper are presented separately, since each impression results from the interaction of the printing surface, ink, and paper; in fact, the authors have found it impossible to completely separate the two so that information given in Walsh's preceding essay is repeated here. The justification must be that in terms of the text layout, this note serves as an appropriate introduction to the watermark reproductions.

The authors claim that many of the watermarks illustrated here were previously unpublished. Therefore, it is regrettable that the examples reproduced have been reduced in size, probably to satisfy layout considerations. Beta-radiographs of watermarks must be superimposed and the details compared before a researcher can describe two watermarks as identical. The marks reproduced here are not reduced by a consistent factor and, although each is accompanied by its own scale, quick visual comparison is impossible. Furthermore, the reproductions are too small to have more than limited value as comparative examples for readers. In addition, watermarks and countermarks from the same sheet are not always placed beside each other.

For the most part, the exposition of the complex technical procedures discussed in this volume is remarkably clear. However, in a few places the text is marred by a lack of clarity. For example, Walsh writes that at least some hand tools used in the new print processes “were designed specifically for use in either etching or engraving” (p. 26; the tools are illustrated on p. 25), and later that “tools traditionally used in engraving were also used through an etching ground” (p. 28). Is this statement an inconsistency in the text, or does it document a change in practice resulting from the passage of time? And from the description of the “clumsy” cloth transfer system (p. 23), it is not clear if—and if not, why not—it was a matter of concern to practitioners that the oil-based paint used in tracing the design onto the cloth “veil” would permeate the cloth and disfigure the underlying original drawing.

At times, information given in individual catalog entries is helpfully cross-referenced to that given in the essays—for example, the description of the gilded and printed frames of Louis-Marin Bonnet's pastel manner prints (see catalog nos. 30-34 and pp. 32‐33). But, in others, there is an irritating lack of coordination between the various sections, and one must read and reread carefully to connect the dots. For example, Walsh discusses Bonnet's white ink in her essay, but we only learn that the inventor kept its formulation secret in Graselli's catalog entry, no. 8. Graselli's catalog entry no. 45 records the letters of the relevant watermark without further comment; however, on page 162 Fisher and Walsh note that this watermark is counterfeit. These slips, if that is what they are, are perhaps unavoidable in exhibition catalogs with their numerous contributors and time constraints.

Nevertheless, and significantly, this book compiles a history previously available only piecemeal and incompletely to English-language readers, scattered among journals, conference papers, books, and exhibition catalogs. This beautifully produced new addition to the literature on artist's printmaking techniques will be invaluable for conservation students and paper conservators as well as for the broader professional, collecting, and interested public.

  • Thea Burns
  • Helen H. Glaser Conservator
  • Weissman Preservation Center
  • Harvard University Library
  • Holyoke Center 821
  • 1350 Massachusetts Ave.
  • Cambridge, Mass. 02138

HELEN HOWARD, PIGMENTS OF ENGLISH MEDIEVAL WALL PAINTING. London: Archetype Publications, 2003.314 pages, hardcover, $87.50. Available at www.archetype.co.uk. ISBN 1-873132-48-4.

ROBERT GOWING AND ADRIAN HERITAGE, EDS., CONSERVING THE PAINTED PAST: DEVELOPING APPROACHES TO WALL PAINTING CONSERVATION. London: James and James, 2003. 156 pages, softcover, $60. Available at www.earthscan.co.uk. ISBN 1-902916-11-5.

“Perhaps it might be properly said, ‘there be three times: a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future.”’ (St. Augustine, quoted by Neville Agnew (p. 75), Conserving the Painted Past: Developing Approaches to Wall Painting Conservation). Two significant publications related to the conservation of wall paintings came out of the United Kingdom in 2003. Pigments of English Medieval Wall Painting by Helen Howard is a compendium of pigments found in wall paintings mainly from English churches and cathedrals. Conserving the Painted Past: Developing Approaches to Wall Painting Conservation is the proceedings of a conference of the same name organized by English Heritage in London in December 1999. Together these two publications fill a gap in this relatively little published field of specialization.

Helen Howard's research constitutes “the first comprehensive study of the pigments employed in English medieval wall painting based on both scientific examination and documentary sources” (p. 3). The work is presented as a series of chapters devoted to the pigments used in England from ca. 1066 to ca. 1510. Each chapter gives a description of the pigment, including cost, optical, chemical, and physical properties; preparation; application; and use in wall painting. Associated binding media are discussed, as are typical pigment alterations.

The text is weighted toward the (art) historical study of these pigments, with detailed descriptions of their use in specific wall paintings, as well as source references. One thesis of the research is that the palette of English medieval wall painting is broader, and the painting technique more sophisticated, than once thought. To support this premise, the book contains an extensive reference table of all the pigments discussed, with the date, site, and location where they were found, analytical techniques used, and references. Of particular interest is that the author found four pigments—vivianite, salt green, kermes lake, and madder lake—not previously known to have been employed in the period under discussion.

The work draws from historic documentary sources and current scientific study by both the author and other well-respected researchers in the field. Compared to other pigment studies, it may be less in-depth in the technical analysis, but the whole study is excellent in its combination of documentary and scientific study to better understand the use of pigments in English medieval wall painting. On a first reading of the text, it seemed odd that cost would be included, but it is actually quite interesting to have this information, as it gives an indication of the availability of the pigment and how commonly it might have been used. Approximately 200 colorplates illustrate the book with details of wall paintings and corresponding cross section photomicrographs. While they are informative and well presented, many could be better explained and described, and better referenced in the text.

Howard has identified a variety of binding media, further illustrating the complexity of the painting technique of the time. Through her research she also identified three pigment alterations not previously recognized, including the lightening of red lead, the alteration of vivianite, and the transform-ation of verdigris to a chloride-based blue alteration product. These are important discoveries that have implications for developing conservation treatments.

Pigments of English Medieval Wall Paintings should serve as an important reference for English wall painting research and conservation. Although the study specifically limits itself to England, it could be relevant to similar time periods and techniques elsewhere. Conservators and other researchers can learn much about the properties, application techniques, and alterations of the pigments discussed, which may aid in developing conservation strategies not only for wall paintings, but also for panel paintings and polychrome sculpture displaying similar materials and techniques. The book is a valuable contribution to the specialized area of wall painting conservation and, as important, to the study of artist's materials and the history of technology in medieval art.

The 1999 conference organized by English Heritage had speakers from seven countries, and at least as many organizations, with representation from the private sector as well. The conference program was organized in sessions on the significance and techniques of English wall paintings, documentation and recording, diagnostic investigations and risk assessment strategies, and conservation and management. Papers in the postprints loosely cover these topics, though they are not specifically divided into four sections. The papers are followed by transcriptions of question-and-answer sessions and closing discussion. The papers contained in the postprints are Robert Gowing,“Developments in Wall Painting Conservation Within the UK”; David Park, “English Medieval Wall Painting in an International Context”; Roger Ling, “Wall Painting in Roman Britain: The Current State of Research”; Helen Howard, “Technology of the Painted Past: Recent Scientific Examination of the Medieval Wall Paintings of the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey”; Lisa Shekede, “English Domestic Wall Paintings: Themes, Techniques and Treatment”; Peter Burman, “The Study and Conservation of Nineteenth-Century Wall Paintings”; Lorinda Wong, “Documentation: Objectives, Levels and the Recording Process”; Paul Bryan, “The Application of Metric Survey Techniques in Wall Painting Conservation”; Sharon Cather, “Assessing Causes and Mechanisms of Detrimental Change to Wall Paintings”; Neville Agnew, “Sins of Omission: Diagnosis, Risk Assessment and Decision. Lessons from Three Sites”; Robert Gowing, “Investigating the Use of a CCD Camera System for Monitoring Insolation of Painted Architectural Surfaces”; Alison Sawdy,“The Role of Environmental Control for Reducing the Rate of Salt Damage in Wall Paintings”; Mauro Matteini, “The Mineral Approach to the Conservation of Mural Paintings: Barium Hydroxide and Artificial Oxalates”; Adrian Heritage, “A Long-Term View: Developing Methodological Approaches to Wall Painting in England”; Nicholas Stanley-Price, “Conservation and Visitor Management: Recent Experience at Rock Art Sites”; Tobit Curteis, “Wall Painting Conservation in England: A Perspective from Private Practice”; Robert White, “The UKIC and Professional Accreditation”; and Werner Schmid, “Mid-career Training in Conservation of Mural Paintings and Related Architectural Surfaces: An International Perspective.”

For the most part, the papers are oriented toward English wall paintings or the practice of wall painting conservation in England. The first papers present the significance and technique of English wall paintings, including studies as diverse as archaeological material and schemes from the nineteenth century. Several of these articles, however, make little direct connection with wall painting conservation. Those that do include Roger Ling's paper, which gives an overview of the conservation history of British archaeological wall paintings, with an interesting discussion of past treatments. Recent study leading to re-treatment has changed the interpretation of certain fragments, a good lesson in minimal intervention. In “Technology of the Painted Past,” Helen Howard presents the results of scientific examination of medieval wall paintings at Westminster Abbey. This paper, in some respects, resembles a case study of her recent publication, Pigments of English Medieval Wall Painting, discussed above. Lisa Shekede's paper on English domestic wall paintings, in which she presents their significance, materials, and techniques, causes of deterioration, and characterization of materials used, provides a comprehensive study of these often-neglected wall paintings.

Two papers in this volume present topics specific to the documentation of wall paintings. Lorinda Wong assesses the process of documentation, and asks, what is an adequate level of documentation, what are the objectives, and how can those objectives be determined and achieved. Paul Bryan's paper is a discussion of metric survey techniques developed for architectural documentation that can also be used for wall paintings. Graphic documentation of wall paintings has received much attention in the recent past, with conferences and working groups focused on the topic. This attention is, in part, a response to advances in technology developed for architecture, and the facilitation of the process with the use of computers and digitization. It is well known that documentation is essential to good conservation practice. These two papers illustrate that point and will add to the body of published works on the topic, particularly the proceedings from the seminar “GraDoc Graphic Documentation Systems in Mural Painting,” Conservation Research Seminar in Rome in November 1999(W. Schmid, ed. Rome: ICCROM, 2000).

The articles that address conservation and management tend toward preventive and passive approaches, advocating minimal intervention and thorough study and diagnosis prior to treatment. Neville Agnew illustrates this approach with his paper on the conservation strategy for the wall paintings at the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, China. In this project, extensive research has been carried out over the past several years on the causes and effects of deterioration as the basis for developing conservation strategies. His evaluation of certain past treatments that have not performed as planned is instructive in driving home the point that conservation of wall paintings in situ is complex, and causes of deterioration are frequently interrelated. Thus conservation must be fully integrated, since treatments on one element are likely to affect others.

Alison Sawdy's article on the role of environmental control for reducing the rate of salt damage in wall paintings gives an in-depth scientific presentation of problems of salts in buildings and wall paintings, showing the complex nature of the deterioration and the importance of appropriate mitigation. Mauro Matteini's paper on the treatment of wall paintings using barium hydroxide and artificial oxalates is the single paper that focuses on intervention. It is clear and concise and describes the barium hydroxide treatment in detail, with further information on the use of artificial oxalates on wall paintings for which barium hydroxide would not be effective or appropriate.

Three of the final papers in the volume discuss the state of conservation in England and give a good idea of what is being done by authorities, namely English Heritage, to raise the standards of wall paintings conservation throughout the country, as well as measures that UKIC is taking toward accreditation. Adrian Heritage's paper on methodological approaches to wall painting conservation gives an overview of activities at English Heritage, based on developing “a framework that incorporates an understanding of the aesthetic, practical and scientific elements of wall paintings conservation [which] can help to inform conservation decision-making and practice” (p. 117). One effort English Heritage has undertaken in the past few years is the production of “Practical Information Leaflets” on a number of topics in wall painting conservation. From the perspective of a conservator in private practice, Tobit Curteis's paper presents his views on private wall painting conservation practice in England. He discusses how the field has changed over the past decade, with a focus more on preventive measures than on interventive treatments, a shift that has affected the way in which conservators work. This paper logically leads to a discussion by Robert White on accreditation in the United Kingdom. It is significant that this issue is raised in such a conference, and that accreditation is receiving such attention not only in the United States but also in England and other European countries at this time.

The last paper of the volume, by Werner Schmid on midcareer training in the conservation of mural paintings, is a review of the training done by ICCROM since the 1960s in mural paintings conservation for professionals. Sadly, the ICCROM mural paintings conservation course has been closed for the past several years. Schmid's review of this important training program underscores the great loss this closure represents to the field, particularly as there are few other places where conservators can receive further training in this area of specialization.

In short, this compilation contains many strong papers on different aspects of wall paintings conservation, and it can be considered a significant contribution to the field. Because most of the papers are directed toward wall paintings in England, the scope for an international audience is limited to some degree. Within the selection of papers, some veer from the topic and contribute little to “Developing Approaches to Wall Painting Conservation,” the subtitle of the volume. The overarching theme of the postprints is the premise of minimal intervention, and passive and preventive measures for conservation in situ, all of which are basic tenets of conservation as stated in current charters and guidelines for conservation practice. It is perhaps worthwhile, though, to stress this approach specifically for wall paintings, given their architectural context and that in England (and elsewhere), they may be found in redundant* or domestic buildings where the public may not be sensitive to issues of conservation or be knowledgeable about how to treat them.

The postprints of this conference bring much new material to the field. A conference dedicated to the conservation of wall paintings is rare, and all the information that can be gleaned from such an event will help to advance this area of specialization. It is a pleasure to see one volume devoted to so many different aspects of this important topic, especially for an American audience, where mural conservation is just gaining recognition.

These two books will certainly contribute to the field of wall painting conservation, an area on which little has been specifically published. They will give not only conservators but also site managers and researchers in other related fields important information on the current status of wall painting conservation in the United Kingdom. These two volumes demonstrate that, with all the complexities of conserving wall paintings in situ, adhering to current international practice wall paintings conservation follows—or should follow—the same rigorous professional standards as those in the museum specialties.

  • Leslie Rainer
  • Wall Painting Conservator
  • 2809 Ocean Ave.
  • Venice, Calif. 90291
  • *British for “abandoned”


Copyright 2005 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works