Treatment FOCUS: A Family's Crayon Enlargement
The owner of this crayon enlargement portrait had always admired it while it hung, for as long as she can remember, in her aunt’s home in Camden County, North Carolina. In the 1980s, she finally asked her aunt if she could have it. “I asked my aunt, ‘who is it?’, and she said it was her grandmother,” the owner said. “We had never talked about it before.” The revelation inspired her to delve into her family history and find out what could be done to preserve it.
After bringing the portrait home to New York, the owner found an antiques dealer who could replace the cracked convex glass of the frame. Over time, however, she realized that this modification would not prevent deterioration, as the portrait was fading and a large tear in its center was getting worse. A series of referrals from conservators unable to treat crayon enlargements finally led her to CCAHA.
CCAHA Conservator Jessica Keister carefully surface cleaned the front of the photograph and mended tears and weak areas. Using toned mulberry paper and modern wove paper, she filled large losses, most significant at the top right and bottom of the photograph. She filled smaller losses along tears with cellulose powder and wheat starch paste. Finally, Jessica applied a solution of warm photographic gelatin to the cellulose powder fills, tears, and areas of abrasion. Over this isolating layer, she inpainted areas of loss and abrasion using pigments and pastels.