‘A study of the clearance of solvent gels used for varnish removal from paintings’

Aviva Burnstock, T. Kieslich

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


A range of clearance procedures were tested for solvent gel formulations containing Ethomeen (a non-volatile surfactant) that were designed to remove varnish from a simulated canvas painting aged naturally for 12 years and an 18th century painting fragment. The experiment followed typical procedures used by conservators for varnish removal from paintings. Qualitative analysis of samples of paint using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) indicated the presence of residual Ethomeen after all the clearance procedures tested. Specific clearance procedures removed components of the Ethomeen formulation differentially. Clearance using the solvent mixture in the gel removed more surfactant than other procedures tested. Surfactant residues were more effectively removed from the simulated canvas painting than the 18th century paint film. Examination of the surface of paint and varnish using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) suggested that the solvents used for clearance influenced the surface appearance of the painting. Similar surface changes in the simulated canvas painting were observed after treatment with gels followed by clearance with solvent mixtures and using solvents alone for varnish removal. Recommendation for future study include the long term effects of residual components of Ethomeen formulations on oil paint.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICOM committee for conservation, 11th triennial meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1-6 September 1996: Preprints
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherJames & James
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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