Until recently, the George W. Truitt belonged to descendants of George W. Elzey, the ship’s captain who is thought to have commissioned it; it still retains the signature of his daughter, Elizabeth Bennett, on the verso of the stretcher. Katelyn found the painting to be in generally good condition, with evidence of earlier conservation treatments, as well as current conservation needs such as careful cleaning and consolidation of flaking paint and craquelure. But it also had a more serious problem—a six-inch-long L-shaped tear in the canvas, bisecting the vessel’s jibs and the hand-drawn, water-soluble ink rigging; the tear happened while a family member was preparing the painting for donation to the Bethel Maritime Museum in Bethel, Delaware.
To repair the tear, Katelyn is using micro-sized crochet hooks to pick up both ends of individual threads on each side of the tear and join them so that they overlap. She then drops a small amount of adhesive on top and allows it to dry before moving on to the next thread. To do this safely, she placed a three-inch-wide collar on each corner to keep the canvas suspended so she can work on the front or flip to the back while working under the microscope.
When Katelyn completes her treatment, the painting will be returned to the Bethel Maritime Museum, where it will spend the foreseeable future being cared for with other artifacts of Bethel’s rich maritime past.
A printable PDF version of this story is available here. Previous stories on projects from the Department of Art Conservation are archived and available here.