Caring for Your Painting

miniature portraits display/storage box
The size of your painting, its fragility, the display environment, and your vision and display requirements all influence the discussion of its care and presentation after treatment. A customized display box was made to house these treasured miniature portraits to protect them from light, soiling, and mechanical damage. The whole collection can now be viewed at-a-glance without handling of the individual pieces. With their small size and glass covers, miniatures are at high risk of drop damage.

Secure Hanging

Both the hardware in the wall and in the back of the painting must be secure. Never use nails in place of picture hangers; works can easily be knocked off of nails, which can also tilt down or pull out of the wall. Two picture hangers of an appropriate weight rating for your picture should be used to distribute the picture’s weight. Space the hangers well apart to lessen shifting of the picture off kilter. For additional details, see Note 10/3 from the Canadian Conservation Institute, which also discusses safe hanging and hardware recommendations.

V-shaped hangers are available in a variety of weight capacity ratings and are safe for most artworks. Very heavy works or works hung on stone or masonry surfaces require special consideration – seek advice. Security hardware (not shown) is available for locations where theft is an identified risk.

Helping Hands

Decide in advance where the work will be moved to and ensure the entire path is safe and clear. Carry a painting with the image side facing you, and grasp both sides firmly rather than dangling the work from the top edge in one hand. Obtain assistance if the work is too large or heavy to move comfortably on your own.  Further details are described in technical Note 10/13 from the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Location, Location

Carefully consider hanging location. Place the work in a location and at a height where it is unlikely to be accidentally contacted. A large painting placed beside a dining table, for example, invites accidental damage as chairs are moved back for that glass of port after dinner. Interior walls are generally preferable to exterior walls, particularly if they are poorly insulated.

Temporary and Long-term Storage

Pictures are more vulnerable to damage while removed from their display locations. If you lean an artwork against the wall, take precautions to ensure it does not slip or get knocked over. Avoid high traffic areas and pet and child accessible zones.  Remove paintings from any area where renovation work is undertaken (it is not unusual to find wall paint spatter on the surface of painting!) and cover and seal works to protect from dust and other particulates. The back surface of a painting should be protected with an impact-resistant backing (see Conservation Framing>Protective backings). The same precautions apply to long-term storage areas.  Flood-vulnerable areas such as basements, and areas without climate control such as attics, should never be used to store artworks.

Say No to Picture Lights

Picture lights fastened at the top of the picture frame are not recommended. A light source placed so close to the picture’s surface gives uneven illumination and depending on the type of lamp, may endanger the work with excess heat and light.

Room Lighting

Soft, low, indirect ambient lighting is best.  As an increasingly wide range of LED lamps becomes available, incandescent and fluorescent lights are becoming obsolescent, allaying  previous concerns about heat and UV emissions. Avoid direct, strong light and heat sources, and be aware of the significant heat from incandescent lights, sunlight and fireplaces. Fluorescent lights emit significant ultraviolet radiation but may be filtered with special tube sleeves. If you have more artworks than wall space, consider a rotating display, which has the added benefit of mitigating light-induced damage.