Relating relative humidity fluctuations to damage in oak panel paintings by a simple experiment

Thomas Arends, Leo Pel (Corresponding author), Henk L. Schellen, David M.J. Smeulders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


Panel paintings are essentially wooden boards painted on one side. Due to the vapor resistance of the paint layer, changing ambient conditions lead to exchange of moisture on only one surface. Subsequently, a non-uniform moisture content profile is formed across the thickness of the board. As a result, differential expansion causes the board to bend in case of no mechanical restriction, or it leads to a build-up of stresses inside the material if restrained. Experiments with oak boards sealed on one side and exposed to a change in the ambient relative humidity (RH) were performed. By scaling, the response of any board with different thickness can be predicted. Since the bending of the board can be described as a linear system behavior, the frequency response can be predicted based on the step response. In combination with critical strains for wood and gesso from the literature, this gives insight into allowable RH fluctuations in terms of frequency and amplitude for different board thicknesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2019


  • bending
  • cyclic relative humidity
  • damage
  • museum climate
  • panel paintings
  • Wood


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