Cellulosebeads save "The Circling of the Planets"?

Augusto Giacometti’s painting The Circling of the Planets (1907; 268 x 218 cm) is in a highly fragile state, suffering from widespread flaking paint. These flakes are very brittle and rigid; none of the usual consolidation techniques managed to achieve necessary ductility to secure lifting paint flakes. In the blue areas, both absorbent protein-oil (lean tempera), as well as non-absorbent oil-protein (tempera grassa) layers were revealed by FTIR analysis. Furthermore, numerous adhesive materials, like wax and PVAc from past conservation treatments, were detected. Systematic experiments were performed to develop a viscosity-adjusted consolidating filler to secure displaced paint flakes, without mobilising residues of old adhesives or penetrating the lean tempera paint. The viscosity was controlled to ensure high viscosity, minimal shrinkage, and no build-up of tensile stress, as this could be harmful to the fragile flakes. Best results were achieved with a consolidating filler composed mainly of methyl cellulose (stable, low polarity), and two new cellulosic filler materials – cellulose beads and microcrystalline cellulose fibres – in combination with pigments. Pigments were included to mask the filler’s whitish appearance and avoid additional retouching.

Contact, Partners & Publications

Thomas Geiger


HKB Hochschule der Künste Bern, Berner Fachhochschule BFH (Silja Meyer, Karolina Soppa, Nadim C. Scherrer, Stefan Zumbühl)
Läuchli Eysler Hoess - Ateliergemeinschaft Konservierung Restaurierung, Wallisellen (Anita Hoess, Matthias Läuchli)
Kunsthaus Zürich (Tobias Haupt)



  • Soppa, K.; Hoess, A.; Läuchli M.; Geiger T.; Scherrer N.; Zumbühl S.,
    Cellulosebeads save "The Circling of the Planets"?
    Poster presentation: Conference on Modern Oil Paints - Modern Oil Paints (CMOP – cleaning modern oil paints) 23 - 25 May 2018, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Soppa, K.; Hoess, A.; Läuchli, M.; Meyer, S.; Geiger T.; Scherrer, N.; Zumbühl, S.; Haupt, T. Can
    Cellulosebeads save the "Circling of the Planets"?
    In: van den Berg, K.J.; Bonaduce, I.; Burnstock, A.; Ormsby, B.; Scharff, M.; Carlyle, L.; Heydenreich, G.; Keune, K. (Eds.)
     Conservation of Modern Oil Paintings 1st ed. 2019, XX, 658 p. 38 illus. Springer International Publishing, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-19254-9


Status: completed







The Circling of the Planets (detail)