Identifying A Precipitated Spirit Painting

When identifying a precipitated spirit painting first look at the eyes.  There are no eyelashes and the eyes are penetrating and look alive.  You will definitely receive a different feeling from the precipitated painting, as if the entity was actually compressed into the canvas.  Check for brush strokes or sketch lines that are the human artists telltale pre-painting routine.

Brush strokes are not always what they appear to be.  When the hair materializes on canvas, how else would Spirit form the hair without a grouping of fine lines?  The hair would only appear as a blurred blending of colors.  There are precipitated spirit paintings on display in Lily Dale’s Museum, Maplewood Hotel, Marion Skidmore Library and NSAC Office on Cottage Row.  These paintings can also be seen at the Morris Pratt Institute in Wisconsin and the Hett Art Gallery at Camp Chesterfield in Indiana.

While preserving these portraits, I had the opportunity to examine first hand the variations and similarities of several portraits by the Bangs Sisters and Campbell Brothers.  I removed the backing from the wooden frames (what today would be referred to as dust covers).  This exposed the inside of the old glass that covered the paintings.  The old glass that was pressed against the portrait for the past hundred years had none or very little residue on it.  I have recently taken apart a naturally done old pastel work of art and the complete face of the subject was imprinted on the glass.

An artist by the name of Randall Bentley pointed out that it is a significant indication that deserves to be investigated further.  If by chance the Bangs Sisters or Campbell Brothers used deceit to complete their portraits then there would have been more particles on the glass coverings.

Using a Bausch and Lomb 10x Coddington magnifying glass, I was able to closely examine the precipitated portraits, checking for peculiarities in each painting.  Using a cotton swab or my finger, the Campbell Brother’s portrait of Napoleon still felt damp as though the precipitate had not dried enough to be framed…even after a hundred years!

The Bangs Sisters painting of Leolyn Pettingill did not leave any residue on the cotton swab or finger at all.  It could not be determined by a professional art framer whether the painting was a pastel or an oil painting.  The precipitated painting nicknamed Clara is believed to have been done by the Bangs Sisters.  It left no residue on the glass. However, a fine white dust believed to have been paint dust from her dress was covering the tin plate that had been used as the dust cover.

I found some mold marks on the portraits of Mr. Thomas Skidmore and Mrs. A.B. Caldwell, both of which are believed to have been done by the Bangs Sisters.  Previous poor storage could have easily caused this condition.  However, I found that besides some minor mold markings were scattered precipitate residue on the areas on the canvas surrounding the heads of the portraits.  I believe this to be part of the precipitation process caused by the magnetism from Spirit to the medium.

When putting the paintings back together I used a conservation glass and cotton matt to keep the glass from ever touching the portraits again.  The rear dust covers were also replaced.

Precipitated Spirit Paintings by Ron Nagy Galde Press 2006

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