Amarilli Rava

PhD student

Thesis: Readhesion interventions on wall paintings: assessment of penetration, deposition and bond strength of organic, water-based adhesives on lime-based secondary supports

Supervised by Prof. Sharon Cather; Co-supervisor Professor Francesca Piquè – Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera Italiana (SUPSI)

Funded by:

  • 2012/13 Farah and Hassan Alaghband scholarship
  • 2013/16 AHRC fees only award
  • 2013/14 James Hughes-Hallett & Arbuthnot Bequest scholarship
  • 2014/15 Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Trust & Courtauld Annual Fund scholarship
  • 2015/16 Headley & James Hughes- Hallett Scholarship
  • 2016/17 Edmond J Safra Scholarship

Adhesion failure of paint and preparatory layers is typically addressed by attempts to readhere the lifted layers. Bonding mechanisms between paint, preparatory layers and their support and are complicated, as are reasons for their failure. Although bonding mechanisms are thoroughly explored within the adhesives industry, they remain poorly understood when applied to the complexity of wall painting conservation. The properties of adhesive materials used in this type of intervention have been evaluated in a number of studies, however the physico-chemical interactions between paint and preparatory layers, their support, and the applied adhesive, remain poorly understood. When addressing adhesion failure, selection of a suitable adhesive material needs to consider not only the properties of the material, but also the dynamics involved in the adhesion process. Research on bonding mechanisms is extremely important in order to clarify the causes behind failure of adhesion. Understanding these mechanisms would help define specific parameters that need to be considered when tackling evaluation of the intervention. In wall painting conservation, difficulties often arise in evaluating conservation treatments. Not only are there inevitable constraints when planning in-situ non-invasive assessment, but also test methodologies designed for the adhesive industry for evaluating strong adhesives are often not appropriate for far weaker adhesive systems. Comparison of high- and low-tech methods that are accessible to the independent conservator, would be highly desirable to provide tools for the design of specific readhesion interventions and accessible evaluation methodologies.


  • University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’
    2003-2007: Oriental Art and Archaeology BA, graduation cum laude
  • The Courtauld Institute of Art
    2007-2010: Wall Painting Conservation MA, Distinction


  • October 2015-current
    The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
    Lecturer in Wall Painting Conservation (part-time).
  • February 2014-15
    Leon Levy Foundation Centre for Conservation Studies at Nagaur
    Course on assessment of materials for conservation. The course included: use of MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and TDS (Technical Data Sheets); setting Performance Criteria for an intervention and specifying Working Property Criteria for materials; undertaking materials characterisation—focusing on sorbents and polymers as typical types of materials; carrying out laboratory tests to assess material properties; and practice using various application methods to affect the way materials work.
  • 2012-15
    Site supervision of MA-level students from The Courtauld Institute of Art, Tbilisi State Academy of Art and Haifa University on conservation projects in Cyprus, India, Bhutan and Georgia. The projects range form 12th-century oil paintings on lime supports to early 16th-century paintings on earthen supports. Supervision on site included: diagnostic investigations, recording, remedial hands-on treatment, passive and preventive interventions. Off-site supervision for site preparation and wrap-up, supervising managerial responsibilities regarding materials and equipment, imaging, documentation, health and safety and information.
  • 2011-14 :
    The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
    Lecturing to MA students in wall painting conservation. Lecture topics included:
    • Failure of adhesion on wall paintings
    • Plasters from the tomb of Tutankhamen’s tomb and Valley of the Queens: original technology and analytical methodology
    • Earthen materials
    • Reflectance transformation imaging (RTI)

Recent publications

  • L. Wong, S. Rickerby, A. Rava, A. Phenix, J. Mazurek, R. Kamel, ‘Examination of the wall paintings in Tutankhamen’s tomb: inconsisten¬cies in original technology,’ in The Decorative: Conservation and the Applied Arts (Contributions to the Vienna Congress 10-14 September 2012), ed. S. Cather et al., London, 2012, 322-30.
  • L. Wong, S. Rickerby, A. Rava, A. Sharkawi, ‘Developing approaches for conserving painted plasters in the royal tombs of the Valley of the Queens’, Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on the Study and Conservation of Earthen Architectural Heritage, Terra 2012, Lima, Peru (e-proceedings).