Initial state of the work

Initial state of the work


Lining is a technical restoration procedure that involves attaching a lining to the original textile backing. Also called re-sizing, it has been a widely used technique. Already in the times of the Alcázar de los Austrias the guild was known to do this work in the palace. Precursors of the current professional in the restoration of painting on canvas, were the liners. They were in charge of repairing the works of the collections damaged by accidental transfers, among other causes. In some cases, camera painters previously went through this experience.

And this technique persists and it is so because the procedure solves several problems in its execution. Problems derived from the serious alteration of the support and its primary function. And mainly with the elimination of vices and deformation of the tissue, the mechanical consolidation of the support in general and the fixation of the preparation and pictorial layer.


The painting represents San Juan Nepomuceno, and it is an oil on canvas from the 18th century (Maella circle, measures 136×98). The canvas is always known in its current location in the Church of San Pablo, in Zaragoza. Its state of conservation prior to this intervention does not allow to appreciate its good invoice. But it is attributable in my opinion to Maella’s circle, until a study and assessment can be made. This painter, Mariano Salvador Maella, although of Valencian origin (Valencia 1736-Madrid 1819), connects with the Aragonese artistic circle of the time for his relations with the Bayeu, the González Velázquez and especially with Goya, with whom he shared the employment of House Painter of King Carlos IV.

As for the work, it can be dated towards the end of the 18th century, with a style very similar to the artists of the time, as well as chromaticism, in bright colors such as blues and yellows. The iconographic attributes are distributed gracefully in the composition and in a narrative way without excessive baroqueness, bringing attention to the center of the painting, where the represented saint levitates on a cloud bed surrounded by angels and cherubs who crown and extol him in a break light blue. In the lower area, elements related to the history of his martyrdom and subsequent elevation to the altars, such as the reference to the bridge and river where he was drowned, and to the language resurrected from the saint’s miracle.

Biased view of the off-hook work prior to lining

Biased view of the off-hook work prior to lining


The painting, oil on canvas, 18th century (136×98 cm), was in the altarpiece of San Juan Nepomuceno (vulgo), located on the left side of the ambulatory. This altarpiece, leaning against the wall, had no possible access to its back, making the painting itself inaccessible, both for a more exhaustive examination and for its extraction. It had to be removed from the face front of the painting to be able to remove it from the altarpiece that was the frame.

Reverse of the original canvas prior to lining

Reverse of the original canvas prior to lining

Organoleptic examination

Once the altar picture was removed, its back could be examined in detail, although the main damages it suffered from the front face were already perceived when presenting broken, sevens, tears and clear deformations. A large amount of deposits and dirt appear in the back in the form of paint drips, accumulation of dust and sizes, excrescences, etc.

The fixed frame, without wedge system and of little width, was ineffective for the function of tensioning the canvas. For this reason, the fabric, little stretched and unhooked, had acquired vices and deformations over time, making it rigid and not very malleable.

The paint also affected the support problem, with cracks and runoff. It also suffered alterations due to old interventions, repainting, retouching and inadequate and pernicious varnishes. Also due to other indirect incidents, fly droppings, oxidized varnishes, candle burns, etc., all of which affect the paint surface in a generalized way.

Gaps and faults of paint that reached to the same fabric and, in many cases, these faults repainted directly on the support, and also sweeps and wear in the form of vertical runoff, especially from the lower half.

Lastly, the outermost layer had a very yellowish and rusty appearance of patinas and varnishes, with irregular application of these that had drops and concentrations applied irregularly over the entire surface of the painting.

Wallpapering process to protect the pictorial layer

Wallpapering process to protect the pictorial layer


After the study and previous photographic documentation of the work, a first mechanical cleaning was carried out and the subsequent protection of the pictorial layer. After removing the frame, the required protective wallpaper was made and two patches with their respective adhesives were removed. Weights were placed where it was necessary to reinforce the action of undoing deformations and vices of the fabric prior to the lining that definitively solves this problem.


The lining or re-thinning of paintings on canvas is a traditional treatment that was already carried out in royal collections. All these procedures prior to the original canvas lining are necessary for a good adaptation between it and its lining. Which must also be prepared with an exhaustive “clearing” of the new fabric; the purpose of this is that the new fabric loses strength and does not have contraction and expansion movements in the future that may affect the work after its restoration.

Development of the lining on a Spanish loom

Development of the lining on a Spanish loom


The fabric used was Belgian taffeta linen, with a spinning of 15 warp steps per square centimeter of weft. It is the one that best fits and is thick enough to retain the adhesive. And for the lining a Spanish loom was used.

After drying the lined work, the new frame was placed, after removing the protective wallpaper. With wedge system, something essential for the stretching and tension control of the work in the future.

The necessary infrastructure for the lining of the frame was prepared, unraveling the new fabric on the handloom. This, moreover, was done in the traditional way, using Belgian linen fabric with 15 spinning steps per square centimeter. As adhesive the traditional and specific flour porridge for this use.

Cleaning of the pictorial layer

Cleaning tastings were carried out, the mixture being the most suitable for all cases, 3A 1: 1: 1. As much for the retention as the evaporation and working time that the components allowed, it was cleaned without excesses, neutralizing with turpentine essence. Acting very homogeneously over the entire surface of the painting without producing stupefied distractions from the cleaning process.

Repaints of various kinds appeared, patinated with the varnish directly. And with a touch-up of the drawing, grossly covering polychrome gaps directly on the fabric. These were removed with the help of the chosen solvent and mechanically with a scalpel as far as possible.

Color reintegration process

Color reintegration process

Matteric and chromatic reintegration. Final protection

The most significant faults were covered and of course all the ones at the bottom, very numerous. Subsequently, the color gaps were reintegrated with watercolor, plucking and regattinizing according to their dimensions, and finally fine-tuning with glaze. Finally, it was varnished with a final varnish with a brush and two applications with a spray to tint it.

They intervened and collaborated in the process and treatment  Elena Naval Castro (lining and cleaning), Paula Alexaindre (Photographs)

If you liked this publication on the restoration of cultural and artistic assets, I encourage you to consult the following publication from L’Atelier de Santi;

Chromatic reintegration