The Noli me Tangere: study and conservation of a Cretan icon

Harisson, Lynne; Ambers, Janet; Stacey, Rebecca; Cartwright, Caroline and Lymberopoulou, Angeliki (2011). The Noli me Tangere: study and conservation of a Cretan icon. The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin, 5 pp. 25–38.



A seventeenth-century icon of the Noli me Tangere (1994,0501.3), in the collections of the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum, has been the subject of detailed technical examination from scientific, conservation and historical perspectives. The aims were to investigate its original materials and manufacture, its treatment history and, if possible, to look for indications of function and use in Orthodox practice, with the ultimate purpose of informing the conservation required to stabilize the icon’s structure and address the damaged condition of the image. Research into the icon’s original context was also undertaken to strengthen its provenance. The wooden panel was identified as cypress and the original palette was found to comprise lead white, gypsum, carbon-based black, red and yellow earths, a basic copper carbonate green, verdigris, indigo, azurite, vermilion, red lead and a red lake. The painting was found to have been originally coated with an oil and resin varnish and two campaigns of restoration were also identified. The results of the study enabled a suitable conservation protocol to be devised and applied. This involved removal of the degraded restoration varnish and the unstable restoration from the early twentieth century to reveal the fine original painted surface. Those areas of restoration thought to date from the painting’s early history, including repairs to the edges and the complete regilding of the background, were left in place. The results of the study also support a Cretan origin for the icon.

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