Projects at the Gallery

Yucca Gloriosa has unfolded

The web films of 17th-century flower paintings tell about Yucca Gloriosa's life as a folded, dented and covered painting in the flower book called the Gottorfer Codex. The Yucca is one among 77 other paintings in Volume 2 which, besides a large quantity of flowers, also includes chestnuts, apples, grapes and other fruits.

The large Yucca was painted with gouache on parchment by flower painter Hans Simon Holzbecher in the middle of the 1600s. Parchment is treated, stretched and smoothed animal skin and is, therefore, an expensive material that only wealthy nobles could afford to buy. It took a whole calf skin for the image of Yucca Gloriosa.

The bookbinder was ordered by the Duke of Gottorp at the end of the 1600s to bind the many valuable paintings into a volume. He first figured out a suitable format and then started work with pencil, ruler and a sharp knife, so that all sides were the same size before they were assembled into a book.

The loose colour is glued with methyl cellulose - an adhesive dissolved in ethanol. The colour and parchment can not tolerate aqueous solutions and therefore, the selected materials are mixed up in alcohol.

But some of the paintings were too big. The painting of Yucca Gloriosa is one of them.  The bookbinder first had to cut close to the top of the plant and then most of the jar at the bottom. Maybe the paint layer was even more damaged in the jar than in the part that can be seen.

After the first cutting, the bookbinder folded the parchment once in the middle and once at each end. In the folded state, the parchment was again trimmed with the knife so the edges were aligned with the book's other pages.

Now the painting has been taken out of the book and unfolded. Areas with loose and cracked gouache have been consolidated with an adhesive, and the dents have been gently flattened.

The painting will now be photographed and the colours can be identified with X-Ray Fluorescence Analysis (XRF analysis).

A new, independent life is waiting for the work of art, mounted and displayed within its own passepartout.

Written by:
Anja Scocozza
Conservation technician

The painting now measures 78 x 51 cm

Updated: 8.apr.2014
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