Digital Tour – Vivid View: The Art and Science of Paint Analysis

Baseboard in Pantry, Bernard Ghequiere House

Image of the paint history of the pantry baseboard at Ghequiere House

Photo by Dr. Susan Buck. Courtesy of Osborne Mackie and Dr. Morgan Delaney

This cross-section from a baseboard in the pantry of the Bernard Ghequiere House (c.1797) provides insight into the use and treatment of eighteenth-century service areas.

Rarely surviving, pantries and service areas are seldom treated to the same degree of investigation as high-end interiors. The disruption of the earliest paint layers, such as the cracking and numerous breaks between colors, tells us this was a space of frequent use and activity. The dark layers of trapped grime further attest to this and reveal that the painters generally did not clean, sand, or patch the surfaces in this room before repainting. The predominance of earth-toned colors also suggests more affordable, mineral-based paints were selected for this service area. Ironically, this combination of use, dirt, and neglect contributes to the creation of a visually arresting and dynamic paint sample.

The paints on the woodwork and plaster of the privately owned Ghequiere House were analyzed in three different phases to guide an extensive restoration. The woodwork in some of the rooms retained as many as 24 generations of paint in varying conditions. Many cross-sections from the secondary spaces reveal films of dirt and soot trapped between the paints layers, while in the public entertaining rooms evidence shows that the woodwork was cleaned more regularly.

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