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Subject: Storing paintings

Storing paintings

From: Carolyn Lamb <carolynpaintingconservator>
Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Shannan Kelly <skelly [at] unlserve__unl__edu> writes

>... However, I have always heard that, for most cases,
>paintings should be stored vertically, and in the correct hanging
>orientation. Could someone set me straight on why it is general
>practice to store paintings "upright," what damage might be
>inflicted if stored sideways, or if this absolutely should be
>avoided altogether? Or, perhaps there is insight to whether certain
>media, application methods, and supports would be affected
>differently than others.

Pictures are hung the 'right way up' to reduce the degree of damage
caused by the natural tendency of canvas to expand/sag over time
causing bulges to form and to be more or less saggy depending on
humidity. Although many stretchers are expandable to cope with this
effect the bulging is not always simply removable by keying-out, but
may need conservation intervention using water-based flattening
treatments. If you store a canvas on its side then you get the
bulging from the normal hanging direction and then the extra bulging
from when it hangs on its side.

Depending on how long it hangs the wrong way and other factors like
whether it already has a lining you can get quite solid lumps of
distortion which are extremely noticeable and costly to put right.
Cracks can also form leaving a permanent reminder of the sags. We
have a good example of this on a full length portrait hung on its
side for years in our museum store which is now unexhibitable
without major work.

Conservators expect the pictures to be the right way up so frame
accordingly. Paper items are mounted with hinges at the top to take
the weight so if it's on its side the picture can slip. Paintings
are likely to have plastazote spacers on the top and sides to allow
for expansion (particularly panels)and more solid spacers at the
bottom to take the weight. If placed on its side the plastazote will
compress leaving the picture loose and sliding in its frame.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:34
                 Distributed: Friday, November 22, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-16-34-015
Received on Wednesday, 20 November, 2002

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