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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Wall painting from the ceiling of a tomb: Bacchic group; on the left is a draped girl with a tambourine; on the right is a draped youth with a thyrsos, supporting a platter on his head; restored.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 2ndC-3rdC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 66.5 centimetres
    • Width: 71 centimetres
  • Bibliography

    • Painting 72.c bibliographic details
  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    24 May 2010

    Treatment proposal

    Stabilisation for storage: the object needs to be cleaned, consolidated, filled, toned and re-backed



    This fragment of the wall painting originates from the curved ceiling of the nasonii tomb. It was flattened and mounted onto canvas, probably using an animal glue. The canvas is stretched over a wooden frame and appears to be fixed in place with adhesive. The stretcher itself is attached to a wooden backboard, which has been constructed from five wooden strips fixed together with two cross battons. The board is fixed onto the stretcher using screws, some of which are completely immobile having corroded over time. Paper adhesive strips have been applied to the edges of the stretcher and a wooden box frame has been attached to the backboard. The stretcher is fairly substantial however some flexibility is evident, which is likely to be the cause of cracking to the plaster as outlined below. The backboard is very brittle and weak.

    Painting – structural:

    The plaster layer is approximately 4mm thick however, evidently, the painting has undergone massive restorations and heavy over-painting since the removal from its original context:

    The surface of the painting is uneven probably related to the flattening of the plaster from a curved ceiling onto a flat canvas. Various losses have been filled with a wax, probably bees wax, as well as plaster. A number of deep cracks run mainly from the corners towards the centre and along the sides of the painting. These can probably be attributed to movement of the stretcher causing the plaster to split. Some finer hairline cracks are also present, concentrated mainly around the edge of the painting. In some areas, particularly in the top half of the painting and on the proper right bottom, a void exists between the canvas and the plaster. However the plaster layer itself appears strong and stable.

    Some damage has occurred to the bottom proper right corner: A fragment approximately 50mm X 80mm appears to be wedged slightly out of position revealing a void underneath. The fragment is still attached to the surround on its right edge; however, some movement is evident and further damage likely. Crumbling plaster, dust and what appears to be traces from past insect activity are collected in this void. Next to this area loss in the topmost plaster layer reveals what is likely to be original plaster and pigment of different colouration than the surround.

    Painting – surface:

    The painting is generally dirty and dusty. Both figures are coated with a varnish rendering the surface shinier and also darker probably due to discolouration of the varnish. The substance has been confirmed to be a mastic resin with linseed oil (as analysed in May 2010 using a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer attached to an IR microscope, see report).

    The chest of the male figure in particular shows some flaking of the paint and varnish, which has curled away from the surface.

    The use digital imaging using infrared light completed by Giovanni Verri reveals the presence of Egyptian blue pigment particularly on the female figure (see images), which indicates that although many areas are indeed restorations, more original material than expected remained.

    Treatment details


    The surface was carefully cleaned by brushing loose dirt particles with a soft brush towards a vacuum cleaner. The dust was removed from particularly vulnerable areas onto a more stable surface first before it was removed with the vacuum cleaner. The surface was then cleaned using smoke sponge (vulcanised natural rubber) by placing the sponge onto the surface with little pressure to remove the dirt.


    The loose paint and varnish flakes were re-laid with 1% solution of Primal B60A (a low-viscosity, water-based acrylic emulsion): by wetting the area with white spirit (composition variable - petroleum distillate) the material was saturated and the consolidant could be fed underneath the flake with a fine brush using capillary action. The flake was then carefully pushed onto the surface using a brush soaked in acetone (propan-1-one/dimethyl ketone) and dabbed almost completely dry before bring it in contact with the surface. The edges of the larger cracks were consolidated with 30% Primal B60A whereas fine hairline crack were consolidated using only a 1% solution of Primal B60A. White spirit was applied as a wetting agent as described above. Any excess adhesive could be removed using acetone.


    The deeper cracks were capped using a paste of microballoons (silica or phenolic resin) in a 20% solution of Paraloid B72(ethyl methacrylate copolymer) in IMS (Industrial methylated spirits (ethanol,methanol) and acetone 1:1; finer cracks were filled using 10% Paraloid B72 in IMS/acetone 1:1 and microballoons.

    These areas were then toned with Rowney's Cryla colours (acrylic).

    The damaged corner was supported by injecting a liquid mixture of microballoons in a 20% solution of Paraloid B72 in IMS/acetone 1:1 into the void, which was then packed in tightly to support the loosened fragment. The top edge of the original material was capped and thus secured, however the left edge was left untouched, as to keep the damage visible and further to allow future research/analyses should this be desired.


    The treated areas are indicated on a mapped image of the painting and saved on Digital Assets for reference. The image was divided into four sections to allow for more detailed documentation. It is to be noted that the image should be considered as a tool to indicate treated areas only and it is not an exact representation of the differing areas.

    Legend: Red – consolidated crack/area; yellow – filled crack/area; purple – old wax fill; green - old plaster fill


    The wooden frame and backboard were removed and a new support was built to ensure the piece can be stored and handled without causing damage to the object: A product called Wedi Tilebacker consisting of a Styrofoam core, coated on both sides with a glass fibre reinforced polymer-modified cement, was attached to the wooden frame using the same screw holes. Two layers of polyester wadding (purchased in John Lewis, 2010) and a thin layer of plastazote were used to give gentle support to the canvas. Both the Wedi board and the polyester wadding passed all Oddy testing.

    The edges of the Wedi board were sealed using Paraloid B72 20% in IMS/acetone. Acid free card strips and one layer of plastazote protect the edges of the painting. These strips were fixed to the board with reinforced corner brackets using polyester resin.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: GAA42919

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