Project facts

Duration: 2020-09-17 - 2024-03-16
Project coordinator: Jerzy Haber Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project consortium: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art
Funding bodies: project no. 2019/34/H/HS2/00581 funded from the Norway Grants 2014-2021
Subject areas: Heritage Management, Materials, Museums, Paintings - Painted surfaces, Preventive conservation, Sustainability, Tangible Heritage
Budget: 1 005 159 EUR


Looking at paintings, we admire colours, shapes formed, the brushwork … but we see also crack patterns – the craquelures which give historical “patina” to painted surfaces and enrich viewer’s aesthetical perception. Variations in the craquelure pattern geometry have been recognized – distances between cracks, shapes and sizes of “islands” created by cracks, or crack orientation in relation to wooden or canvas substrates. Since these geometries depend on the substrate of the pictorial layer, ground layer thickness and the binder used in its manufacturing, or pigment/filler grain size in the layers, the crack typologies may be correlated with different – geographically and chronologically - artistic traditions. However, the mechanisms along which the stress fields in paintings are generated and dissipated in the crack development are understood in the heritage science only in very general terms. More importantly, there is no quantitative understanding of the ways in which craquelures influence vulnerability of paintings to further damage induced by changes in temperature and relative humidity (RH) in their environments. Therefore, the strategic aim of the project is to develop a global three-dimensional physical model of original cracked pictorial layers and through this decisively contribute to the development of evidence-based environmental specifications in museums. The implementation of this cross-sectoral project blending problems of humanities with methods and instruments used by natural and engineering sciences is possible owing to collaborative effort of partners from Poland and Norway, supported by research groups or museums from France, UK and USA to advance knowledge in the area at the interface between natural sciences, history of art and conservation.

Impacts & Results

The proposed project, innovative on the global scale, is of great importance to the society, and its ambition is to significantly support the sustainable care and conservation practice for paintings. Therefore, the dissemination of project’s outcome and reaching users and stakeholders in the conservation and museum sector globally are important additional tasks. Especially, two approaches are envisaged to ensure effective acceptance of the proposed solutions by the museum and conservation community: support to the development of standards and guidelines in protection of cultural heritage, and development of HERIe, a web-based tool for assessing risk of physical damage to heritage objects vulnerable to changes in the environmental parameters -