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Ingres at the Morgan | Thaw Conservation Center

Materials and Methods

Read more: Introduction | Media | Paper | Drawing boards | Revising compositions | Resources

Fig. 6. This image, made with Reflectance Transformation Imaging, shows distortions that indicate that the sheet was once mounted to a prefabricated drawing board.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, 1815. Bequest of Therese Kuhn Straus in Memory of Her Husband, Herbert N. Straus, 1977.

Fig. 7. This sheet was once mounted to a drawing board. Note the crease where the paper was folded around the support, the fractured edges along the crease, and the drawn lines that stop before the crease.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Frau Reinhold and Her Daughters, Susette-Marie and Marie-Auguste-Friederike, 1815. Thaw Collection.


Of the eleven portraits in the exhibition, seven appear to have been made on prefabricated drawing boards. These boards consisted of fine wove paper wrapped around a heavier and cheaper support, such as thin cardboard. Sandwiched between the wrapped paper and the support was a high-quality sheet of laid paper that acted as a barrier and cushion between the rough board and the fine drawing paper.

The format provided several advantages to an artist: the drawing sheet was kept taut and made more rigid by the cardboard, and the support cushioned the paper when an artist used a sharp tool, such as the stylus Ingres employed in Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière. Furthermore, the boards were portable: an artist was not tied to a studio but could easily carry drawing boards to a sitter's house for a portrait.

Drawing boards were sold by artists' suppliers pre-prepared, ready for the artist's immediate use. They were likely made by wrapping a dampened drawing sheet around the support board and gluing it in place; drying under this tension resulted in a taut surface similar to a stretched canvas. The drawing paper was only adhered on the edges of the support and on the margins, which were folded around to the back. Because the drawing sheet was not adhered to the front of the support at all, it could be separated the paper from the board without damage. Many of Ingres's drawings made on prefabricated drawing boards have been removed from their supports. Remarkably, evidence of the original format remains in many of the Morgan's drawings today.

A photograph made with Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) of Ingres's Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, for example, confirms that the sheet was once mounted on a prefabricated drawing board (fig. 6). Looking at the corners of the drawing, it is possible to see the draws—diagonal distortions of the surface—that were made when the sheet shrank slightly as it dried wrapped around the support. The fact that the draws remain in the sheet today indicates that the drawing has never been washed—an important piece of information that will influence any future conservation treatment.

Drawings that have been removed from boards may retain a bit of a crease where the paper was once folded around the support. In the Morgan's collection, such a crease is evident in Ingres's drawing Frau Reinhold and her Daughters (fig. 7). Drawings that were originally mounted on boards may also include drawn lines that do not extend beyond the crease and a slight discoloration following the crease, which might be due to the adhesive used to adhere the sheet to the support, or due to contact with a wooden frame. These sources of degradation also made the drawing papers prone to fracturing along the crease.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.