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Conservation & Care

The Gemäldegalerie preserves and protects some 3600 paintings on wood, canvas, copper, and even on stone, along with approximately 3000 historical frames. The Gemäldegalerie currently has on its permanent staff a team of five paintings conservators and a conservator of wood supports and frames. They are responsible for the preventive conservation, technical analysis, and interventive conservation-restoration of the paintings.

Preventive conservation requires the constant monitoring of the collection and the environmental conditions of works on display and in storage. To this end, our team of conservators conduct regular condition surveys of the works, risk analyses with regard to their display, lending, and transport, as well as making continuous improvements to protection and security measures, and monitoring relative humidity, light, and contaminant levels. The conservators are furthermore responsible for the care of works on loan from the Gemäldegalerie for use in external exhibitions, as well as incoming paintings to the museum.

The study of the paintings with regard to structural composition, material characteristics, aging, and restoration history forms the prerequisite for any future restoration or conservation treatments. This research also now forms an essential part of any work that goes into the collection catalogues. The conservators are supported in their work by the Gemäldegalerie’s own technical photographer and, periodically, by the team of scientists at the Rathgen-Forschungslabor. X-radiography, infrared and UV imaging technology, microphotography and macro-photography applied under varying light conditions are some of the many techniques that provide information about paint structure and alterations. The conservators are involved in ongoing art-historical and scientific studies, but also conduct their own technical analysis and research into past restoration and conservation actions.

In a long-running partnership with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, our conservation studio and photographic studio have spent years selecting works and examining them with the aid of neutron-activation autoradiography. The results show the valuable contribution this technology can make to the analysis of the creative processes and working methods of the old masters. In a separate project, the Gemäldegalerie’s collection of paintings variously attributed at one stage or another to Rembrandt and, most specifically, the neutron-activation autoradiographs created from them, are currently undergoing technical analysis.

Conservation and restoration treatments adhere to the latest scientific standards, while projects handled by external staff are supervised accordingly. All research findings and treatments are well documented; the conservation and technical analysis reports are archived in the conservation studio. The conservation department’s large studios (400 m² in size) and modern facilities provide the ideal conditions for the study, conservation, and restoration of even large-scale paintings.

The Gemäldegalerie’s conservators are also involved in art-education work and in academic programmes. They present guided tours and deliver lectures as well as supervise pre-university work placements, graduate traineeships (German: 'Volontariat'), and master’s dissertations.