en français

Many old master paintings executed on panel were later cradled, especially in the nineteenth century. Cradling is a process whereby slats of wood are affixed in a grid-like fashion to the back of the panel. Before the cradle was applied, the panel was typically shaved and thinned to create a perfectly even surface for the wood slats. The slats whose direction corresponded to that of the wood grain were glued rigidly to the back of the painting; those that ran perpendicular to the grain would then be able to move as the panel adjusted to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Cradles were thus intended to prevent panels from warping, but they often created more harm than they prevented. Wood will always have a tendency to react to changes in relative humidity; if this natural warping is prohibited by a cradle, the restriction may cause the panel to crack and split. Cradles also hamper X-radiography because the slats will show as a lighter grid across the X-radiograph. It is possible to partly correct for this by filling the gaps in the cradle grid with a substance of similar density to the wood used for the cradle. For the X-radiography of the painting attributed to Brouwer we used an artificial resin (Elvacite) to address this issue.