Characterization of Filling Materials for Easel Paintings
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Developing appropriate treatments for easel paintings can be complex, as many works are composed of various materials that respond in different ways. When selecting a filling material for these artworks, several properties are investigated including: the need for the infill to react to environmental conditions in a similar manner as the original material; the need for the infill to have good handling properties, adhesion to the original support, and cohesion within the filling material; the ability for the infill to withstand the stress of the surrounding material and; be as flexible as the original material to not cause further damage. Also, changes in colour or mechanical properties should not occur as part of the ageing process. Studies are needed on acrylic-based materials used as infills in conservation treatments. This research examines some of the chemical, physical, and optical changes of eleven filling materials before and after ageing, with the aim to evaluate the overall appropriateness of these materials as infills for easel paintings. The materials examined were three rabbit skin glue (RSG) gessoes, and seven commercially prepared acrylic materials, all easily acquired in North America. Chemical analysis was carried out with Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence (XRF), pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (Py-GC/MS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Overall the compositions of the various materials examined were found to be in agreement with the available literature and previous research. This study also examined characteristics of these materials not described in previous works and, additionally, presented the compositions and behaviour of several commonly used materials with little literature description. After application of an ageing regimen, most naturally aged and artificially aged samples displayed small changes in gloss, colour, thickness, and diffusive behaviour; however, to evaluate these materials fully mechanical testing and environmental studies should be carried out.