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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Christmas Past, Christmas Present

by Conservation

12/10/2020

#CAMConservation , behind the scenes , Elizabeth Boott Duveneck

Soon to move from the paper lab to the gallery is a box decorated with ink and gouache by Elizabeth Boott Duveneck.  On the top she painted Frank Duveneck’s monogram and “Christmas-1880”.  The box was a gift to her husband, and it looks like it was well used and was cherished enough to have survived for 140 years.  The artist’s daughter in law donated it to the Cincinnati Museum Center, and we are lucky to be able to show it with other works of art by the Duvenecks.

The cardboard box is covered with brown paper, some of which has been lost.  Where the paper folds around the edges, there are small tears.  In one area the box was deformed, the cardboard being pushed in at the bottom of one side.  The cardboard was gently humidified around the deformation to relax the layers of paper that make up the board.  The board was dried under pressure to help flatten it.  Humidification and pressing were repeated several times to coax the paper layers into alignment. The box bottom was too badly deformed to be able to flatten it without creating other problems.  Loose bits of brown paper and delaminating layers of cardboard were reattached to prevent loss.  Some of the larger losses of brown paper were replaced by new paper fills to cover the lighter underlying board.  The box retains its look of age and use, but losses no longer detract from the lovingly painted decoration.  See the box in the new exhibition Frank Duveneck: American Master when the museum opens later this month.