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268 Euclid Avenue, apt 4
Oakland, CA, 94610
United States


Roberta Piantavigna conservator of photographs


Anonymous, Russian Ballet, 1930


Anonymous, Russian Ballet, (1930)

Gelatin silver print on baryta paper, matte, vintage

November 2013

Commissioned by: private collector

Project and responsibilities: conservator responsible for condition assessment, treatments and photo documentation - repairing of creases, scratches, losses and abrasions, inpainting.

Job Position:  conservator at The Better Image, NJ (US).


Condition of Photograph

The photograph was in generally very poor condition. Although the image itself was intact, the numerous tears and creases around the edges and through the middle of the print were highly distracting and had the potential for becoming worse if not treated.

The most extensive damage was in the bottom corners where there were significant losses: the lower left corner was missing a significant segment; on the right hand corner was missing altogether. Fibers of the paper base were exposed along numerous complex tears extend from the bottom left corners and edges into the center with associated damages. Flap of loose emulsion were present along the tears. The print was creased heavily down the center of the image. The upper right corner of the image was bent in two direction and precariously attached. Moreover in the upper portion of the photograph and next to the middle there were three relevant creases.

The left hand edge of the print exhibited the most damage with four very large tears and numerous associated creases.  The largest crease was one inch from the left hand upper corner and it was extended into the tear beginning from the lower right corner. The top edge had a two-inches crease near the corner and to the right of this is a 1 ½-inch tear with associated crease. Along the bottom edge there was a major tear and four visible creases, close to the missing both corners. The right hand edge of the print was relatively intact with only one crease and an area in the lower part where the emulsion was bent over, but still attached.

Few scratches were noted in the dMax areas of the image (above the dancers’ heads). The surface of the print was covered with a fine layer of dust there was a brownish/orange accretion in the upper right hand corner.

The verso of the print exhibited all the tears and creases visible on the recto and had a faint brownish stain on the lower right hand third, which was most likely from original processing. The paper support was dirty, especially along the edge with few fingerprints. Very small purple spots were also noted on the verso, visible to the naked eye along the bottom third of the print as well as upper right hand corner area, 2 ½ from the top edge.


Given to the extreme and varied nature of the damages the photograph had suffered, my aim was to bring the work back into plane, repair the various tears and tone losses along the edges of the breaks..

Surface Cleaning

  1. The photograph was cleaned using grated and stubs of vinyl eraser and organic solvents as needed to remove or reduce loose surface dirt.
  2. The verso of the photograph was locally surface cleaned.
  3.  The photograph was cleaned further using a mixture of ethanol and distilled water to remove or reduce ingrained dirt and accretions.

Tear Repair

  1. Various tear, simple and comple, were realigned and mended with weath strach paste and Japanese paper adhered to the verso for support


  1. Worn corners, edge losses, deep creases and breaks in the emulsion layer were consolidated with dilute gelatin applied under magnification and reinforced from the verso with mends of Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. As expected, creases of this nature o not respond completely to consolidation and flattering. Evidence of the crease, although reduced, still remains visible even after treatments.


  1. Inserts for the corners and edge losses were fabricated out of an appropriate weight Western paper and toned with Winsor & Newton® watercolors to approximate the original photograph. The inserts were attached to the photograph and reinforced from the verso with mends of Japanese paper adhered with wheat starch paste.


  1. Areas of losses were painted using Winsor & Newton watercolors over an isolating layer of 2% gelatin. Note that all efforts were made to match tones and surface texture but inpainting on photographs is always going to be visible upon close inspection after treatment and especially so in raking light examination.

Before and after treatment, selected aspects of the project were documented digitally. The image are property of The Better Image® as part of the permanent treatment record.


ROBERTA PIANTAVIGNA © 2016 | P.IVA 05606440963