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The conservation and restoration of the vaulted ceiling paintings in the Town Hall, Maastricht

In 2014 part of the painted vault ceiling in the main public room of Maastricht's 17th century Town Hall was conserved and restored by SRAL. This vault - located directly above the main door -- connects with a large cross vault and a dome to form the entire ceiling. The painted decorations were carried out between 1667 and 1671 by Theodoor van der Schuer, who was no minor artist, being also responsible for the ceiling paintings which decorate theTrêveszaal in the Binnenhof in Den Haag. An unusual technical aspect of the ceiling decorations in Maastricht is that they were painted directly onto the ceiling plaster, and not – as was typical in the Netherlands at the time – on wooden planks.

Prior to any treatment being carried out, research was undertaken by SRAL to determine the condition of the layers, investigate the original material-technical aspects, and understand the restoration history. The research findings were invaluable in enabling a responsible treatment proposal. An important revelation was the finding of 3 major restoration interventions – the first by de Theodoor Schaepkens in 1838, the second by Vidar from Belgium in 1895 and the most recent by Prof. Thé Lau en Alphons Volders in 1951. 

The complexity of the treatment required close cross-over collaboration – and demonstrated the strength of interdisciplinary teamwork at SRAL: the overpaints were identified through the examinations and instrumental analysis of stratigraphic samples mounted in cross-section: the removal of varnishes and overpaints required the knowledge and experience of easel paintings conservators; the depiction of the paintings directly on plaster demanded the knowledge and experience of wall paintings conservators;  and the relationship between the treated vault and the rest of this important Hollands Classical interior was studied and evaluated by specialist conservators in historic interiors. 

SRAL’s research, conservation and restoration was closely followed by the National Cultural Heritage (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed.) It is hoped that a similarly responsible restoration and conservation treatment for the rest of this extraordinary ceiling will be possible in the coming years.

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