We had a painting come into the lab from a CA client that use to be part of an old family estate in NY. The painting was very high quality, but very dirty and it had 16 holes in it. On the back was an old crusty brown label with no writing on it…. or so it seemed!
With infrared technology you can sometimes read old obscured writing… and we happen to have two types of infrared reflectometers. Under the lights and with the aid of the infrared we were able to see that it was an exhibition label from the World’s Fair of 1861. It clearly read, “Richmond, Yorkshire England, James Peale, 1858”
Very cool! An old crusty label had given up its secret obscured information that has meant everything to the history and value of this wonderful painting. Because of this label, the value went up considerably.
And therein lies the lesson to be learned, especially on old paintings: Protect old labels and the historical information they contain. Here’s an example of what we do to protect old labels:
This label has been deacidified to neutralize the acids and stop deterioration and encapsulated to protect it against handling. You can provide protection to your labels by covering them over with a sandwich baggie (stable, archival plastic) but remember, never staple, tape or glue anything directly on the original label or on any historical info written on the artwork. In addition, you’ll notice on the back of the painting/frame, new mounting hardware (no nails hammered through paintings!), new wire (coated with plastic to retard rust) and Foamcor to keep out dust and provide protection against poor handing and storage.
There are some lessons to be learned in this post… some of which will really be of benefit.
There are many other tips and info available in the book, How To Save Your Stuff so go to the Products tab on the top of the page and download a copy now.