Stefan Dedecek, Conservator of Paintings, Murals, and Polychrome Surfaces, recently completed a conservation treatment of a painted wall mural at the Wood County Courthouse in Bowling Green, Ohio.

The mural before treatment, the surface appears dark and discolored.

The painted wall mural, Justice, features a long curving marble bench with two figures clad in classical gowns including Lady Justice. An enlarged stone tablet sits between them stating, “Let the law prevail and let justice be done”.

The mural is an oil painting on canvas, and it is located in a arch near the ceiling. It is complimented by the pastel walls and beautifully executed moulding which acts as a frame around the artwork.

A detail of the mural before treatment, the varnish has discolored with age

The mural conservation treatment began with a careful visual inspection and digital documentation of the before treatment condition. The paint film and substrate was found to be in good condition overall with only minor issues like paint drips which were not original; however, the overall surface had a discolored varnish and layer of dirt that obscured the details of the mural.

Treatment began by reducing the accumulation of dirt on the surface. During the mural conservation treatment, the reduction of the discolored varnish was a multi-step process that required several different approaches. Scattered paint drips needed to be manually removed with a scalpel in some cases.

Conservator Dedecek snaps an image during treatment, the viewer’s right is partially cleaned.

The cleaning performed during the conservation treatment of the painted wall mural revealed the original colors, making the surface appear richer in detail and brighter overall . After cleaning, the paint film had only a limited number of paint losses.

A detail of the mural after treatment.

Despite the good condition, losses and abrasions still needed to be filled and inpainted. Conservator Dedecek applied an isolation varnish to protect the original painting then performed the necessary repairs. A final varnish layer was applied to both protect the surface of the painting and to resaturate the colors as the artist would have likely intended them to originally appear.

An overall image of the mural after treatment, the surface is more clear and colorful.

The painted wall mural is just one mural found in the building as there are several that decorate the walls of the third floor. The Wood County Courthouse and Jail is located in a stunning Richardsonian Romanesque style structure that was built in 1894.