Villa Madama

Conservation condition: sheet X/18

Reverse of the plan of the Villa Madama showing paper sections

X/18, Andrea Palladio (c.1541)
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collections


Date of drawing: circa 1540

Laid lines: main sheet 40mm apart

Watermarks: no watermarks on any of the paper sections

Weight of paper: heavy 

Conservation condition of the drawing: fair; excess glue and staining at pasted edges, surface dirt, creasing and undulations running across the paper from left to right.

Sheet X/18 is made up of four sections of paper which have been pasted together at some point in its history. It is unlikely that this was done in Palladio's time. The sections can be clearly seen from the reverse, shown in the image. Sheets of paper were not available in standard sizes until the 19th century, so this may explain why several of his drawings were pasted together to make one larger sheet.

The pasting of sheets can cause embedded creasing to occur at the join edges and the swelling of the adhesive can cause distortions to the sheet.

The drawing was surface cleaned and then needed conservation to reduce planar distortion using humidification processes.

Surface cleaning

Surface cleaning is required to remove dirt which is sitting on the surface of the paper, prior to humidification.

Mechanical dry cleaning techniques are very well suited to ink drawings. A piece of paper that has been sized well in good physical condition can withstand this type of treatment. Erasures, although soft, can still abrade the paper and damage the paper's fibres, so the paper has to be strong enough to endure the mechanical cleaning and the drawing material has to be stable. 

The conservator has to ensure that the relationships between the lighter and darker areas are retained across the sheet and no information is removed.

Two types of eraser were used:

  •  a dry cleaning sponge
  •  a staedtler® mars plastic eraser

The sponge, made from vulcanised rubber, was used to absorb and lift away dirt. The plastic eraser was grated and gently rubbed in a circular movement using cotton wool. The residue of the dirty grated eraser was gently brushed away, although it should be noted that some residue is likely to have remained in the paper's substrate.