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Can I Hang it Over a Fireplace?

When I worked in encaustics, my beeswax/damar resin mixture wouldn’t even budge until my heated palette reached a temperature of 150F. The wax was workable at 200F. Now that I work in oil and cold wax, a medium that’s also beeswax-based but is not applied using heat, I needed to find out for myself.

I leaned one of my paintings against a mirror above my fireplace and hung a thermometer on it. It’s your basic thermometer from the garden center at Home Depot. My fireplace is your generic gas fireplace with a switch on the wall. There’s also a knob behind the screen. It might be a high/low setting but we never touch it.

The painting received the most amount of heat at the bottom, where the temperature reached just above 120F. I know my photo shows 80F… you’ll have to take my word for it. I had just started this experiment and had originally planned a video post using photos only as a backup, but my new, fancy camera got the better of me. Learning curve. 

Anyway, because heat rises, I thought the painting would receive more heat further up but surprisingly, this wasn’t the case. The middle of the painting measured 118F, and the top, 115%.

I left the painting on the fireplace for a total of 2 1/2 hours. Nothing happened to it. It didn’t melt or soften. It did get a little warm to the touch but that would be the case for anything above a fireplace. The closeups were taken at the end of the experiment, just before I turned the fireplace off. You can see the painting is just fine. When I touched the surface, nothing rubbed off on my fingers. The hot spots you see are just a reflection from the overhead light.

Don’t forget that, in reality, the painting would hang where the mirror is, i.e., closer to the wall and even further away from heat. Also, the painting I used here is a work-in-progress. The oil/wax mixture didn’t have the benefit of drying over time, which would only serve to harden the surface and make it even more durable.

In case you’re wondering, the size of the mirror is 3×4 ft. The mantle diverts heat away from the painting, so if you don’t have a mantle, that would be a different story. If you’d like to play it safe, take a thermometer and replicate my experiment. See how much heat your own fireplace kicks up. Beeswax alone, without the oil paint to further stabilize the wax, doesn’t soften until it reaches 144F (per Wikipedia). If you’re getting results below this, let’s say 130F to be safe, my guess is that my paintings will be just fine.