Collection / Conservation

Collection / Conservation

Collection / Conservation



The Städel Museum’s conservation workshop for paintings and modern sculpture oversees holdings encompassing more than three thousand painted works spanning the period from the fourteenth century to the present, as well as the collection’s sculptures, which date from the nineteenth century onwards, likewise to our own time.

The workshop not only conserves and restores individual artworks but also carries out art-technological investigations for the museum’s scholarly inventory catalogues. Of ever greater importance in this context is research into materials newly introduced to art production, and into how those materials age under museum conditions.

The museum conservators are moreover responsible for developing concepts for preventive conservation, in other words for optimizing the conditions under which artworks are kept – in the exhibition galleries as well as in the storage rooms. Among the relevant aspects here are, for example, interior climate control and protection from light.

When a painting or sculpture is to be placed on loan to a partner museum, the conservators begin by checking to make sure that its condition permits such a loan. If so, the next step is to take all the necessary precautions to protect the artwork during its journey. Fragile objects are often accompanied by conservators to the exhibition venue.

The conservatorial supervision of special exhibitions at the Städel Museum is often extremely time-consuming and complex, and is carried out by free-lance conservators in close cooperation with the head of the respective department.

Scholarly supervisor of Conservation Paintings and Modern Sculptures

Stephan Knobloch
Head of Conservation Paintings and Modern Sculptures



The Department of Prints and Drawings has a collection of drawings, watercolours, pastels and prints of the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

Prevention of Damage
Works on paper – a material which reacts extremely sensitively to high humidity, air pollution, mechanical stress and light – can remain in fairly good condition for a long period of time if properly protected. One of the foremost tasks of the museum conservator therefore is the prevention of damage. This includes the control and regulation of climatic conditions in the storage and exhibition rooms, the storage in acid-free, museum-board mounts, portfolios or cases, safe transport and packing measures within the collection as well as in the context of loans. Such precautions are more effective and less expensive than restoration following damage.

One fundamental principle that applies to the work of graphic arts restoration as well is that all modifications be reversible for later restoration measures, if necessary. This is not always possible, of course. However, cleaning methods, in-fills and strengthening of paper are carried out according to recent scientific research and in such a way that they can be reversed at a later date, if necessary.

Aesthetic Responsibility
Apart from the safekeeping of the works of art on paper, the preservation of the original statement, which is unique for every work of art, and the artistic and material-specific information they contain is also important. The history that characterizes each work and the traces of use it shows are considered integral parts of the work. The aim is to ensure that the damages and restoration do not distract from the viewer’s perception of the artwork but retreat into the background.

Scholarly supervisor of graphic arts conservation

Ruth Schmutzler
Head of Graphic Arts Conservation

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