The Treatment of an Old Master Print by Albrecht Durer

By David Chandler, Chief Conservator of Works on Paper

The print collection at Albion College is an enormous and important teaching tool. With great art history lessons to offer, this collection can give students, scholars, collectors, as well as the interested public, so many examples of printmaking techniques and styles. This print by Albrecht Durer is a good example.

Featured Piece: Albrecht Durer. Woodblock print with provenance stamps on verso.
Condition: Print had some distortion, previous fills (which had discolored) and retouch, a large cut through the middle that had been repaired tentatively in the past.
Treatment: Tear repair and distortion reduction through humidity package.

(Above) Before treatment – front; close-up of Durer

(Above) Before treatment – back

(Above) Hinges were mechanically removed using a poultice technique that softened the adhesive allowing the hinges to be removed safely with a flat tool.

(Above) Tear repair. Area where an old damage (vertical) was noted. The print was repaired with a small strip of Asian mending paper and wheat paste. Wheat pasted is the adhesive that was used to attach the paper.

(Above) Though inks in the woodblock print are not water soluble, the provenance stamps on the verso were problematic. To ensure the integrity of the stamps and the print as a whole, we opted to use a humidity package that allows for the relative humidity to be introduced in the print over a slow and controlled period of time. This in turn relaxes the print which had some slight distortion.

(Above) After treatment – front. Note area in upper right hand corner that had been previously filled and retouched had discolored over time. Discoloring was reduced with local moisture from the humidity package and cleaned the paper in a subtle way. The tonal shift in the sheet makes the detail more visually accessible in areas with tight hatching or unprinted sheet passages.

Note: After the print was treated, it was weighted individually between sheets of blotters to prevent distortion.

The Albion College Collection continues to be treated by staff conservators: David Chandler, Chief Conservator of Works on Paper; Olga Knopf, Senior Conservator of Works on Paper; and, Brian Kapernekas, Associate Conservator of Works on Paper.