Technique and condition

The painting was executed on four commercially produced mahogany-veneered plywood doors, each comprising two sheets of 3-ply plywood panels (at front and back) separated by square battens (35 mm x 35 mm), which are glued to the panels and provide the four sides of each door. The battens are butt joined at each corner, with the vertical members running the full length of the panels. The four panels are hung individually and are not attached to each other in any way. The topography of the painting's support has been modified further by the adhesion of strips of 20 mm x 20 mm square battens and shaped reliefs (see raking light photography). Along the top edge of each panel this relief work adds a further 30 mm to the panels' overall depth. All the battens and relief pieces are covered with strips of a thin cotton fabric which have been glued over them. In addition there is an original secondary support on the rear of each door in the form of pine batten hanging rails which are glued and screwed along the top and bottom edges of each panel, and each top rail is complete with hanging rings attached to it.

The front faces of the doors appear to have been initially prepared with an unpigmented layer, possibly an animal glue size. Although there is no overall pigmented preparatory layer, a white priming (possibly an acrylic gesso) has been applied over all of the canvas pieces, extending slightly beyond each canvas edge. The paints are a mixture of artists' oil paints, a glossy black household paint (based on an alkyd resin) and silver and gold metallic paints, which have been applied in various brush techniques. The paint which was applied directly onto the door panels was done so as rather lean paint and in several thin layers which have often been applied wet-in-wet and then extensively scraped back, abraded or rubbed out with further thinner. This has produced a highly complex layered structure in these areas. In contrast, the paint over the relief work is thicker and more textured and exhibits a reasonable impasto from brushwork, and is more characteristic of paint used directly from the tube.

There is no varnish on the painting and the work is not framed. The condition of the painting is good. The plywood support only has a few slight deviations from a flat plane and a few minor bumps and damages to its edges. The paint layers possess a few minor scuffs, particularly towards the edges, although the artist may have intended many of these. Providing a careful handling policy is adopted and a stable environment kept, the painting's condition should not suffer any further deterioration.

Tom Learner
April 1998