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Thermal degradation of easel paintings

Thermal degradation of easel paintings

Programme start: 2005

CICRP: Nicolas Bouillon

Several accidents, in France as well as abroad, have revealed a particular sensitivity to heat in certain materials of pictorial layers, leading to considerable degradation of canvas collections situated in spaces adjoining an outbreak of fire. Several examples of paintings having suffered this type of degradation attest to differential surface deterioration behaviour depending on the colour and composition of the pictorial layer but equally according to the depth of stratigraphic section samples. The thermal degradation process of the pictorial matter of painted works is complex and still little understood.

This research programme includes a bibliography identifying the constituent materials of paints most sensitive to heat, a comparative study of the thermal degradation of natural and synthetic resins most used in ancient painting and in restoration, and finally a collection of information from restorers, conservators and custodians of collections having faced these types of problems.


  • Kleitz, Marie-Odile; Serra, Bruno; Vallet, Jean-Marc et al., ‘Questions sur la sensibilité thermique des peintures de chevalet en présence d’un incendie’, in Prévention 2000. Congrès international. Comité International du Bouclier Bleu, Draguignan-Figanières, 7–10 November 2000.
  • Colombini, Alain; Kleitz, Marie-Odile; Serra, Bruno; Vallet, Jean-Marc, ‘Thermal behaviour of a painting near a hearth of fire’, in International congress: Catastrophes and Catastrophe Management in Museums, Sarajevo, 2001.
  • Bouillon, Nicolas and Saheb, Mandana, ‘La dégradation thermique des peintures de chevalet – Etude des vernis et Glacis’, rapport de stage Ingénieur, p. 64, 2005.