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Restoring paintings

3 min read

Restoring paintings


By restoration we mean any operation intended to restore something hand-made to its original function, this article may be something produced by an industrial process, something that has a concrete use, or a work of art. At this point you might ask when an object can be considered a work of art. The answer to this question lies in each of our consciences. What I mean by this is that when a person considers something to be art, it is art. To understand the concept of restoration we should note that a work of art has both a historic and artistic aspect. The former regards the changes the work has undergone over time while the aesthetic aspect is what renders it a work of art.
During the restoration process both of these aspects should be respected. What you are restoring in a work of art is its material and you should never interfere with the image, the figures, even if this is not always possible. The fundamental principles which should be respected every time that you restore a painting, fresco or statue are also very important. In my specific case this would be a painting. These principles are: reversibility, recognition, compatibility and minimum alteration. The materials used for the restoration must be compatible with those originally used to avoid causing physical or chemical damage which could also decrease the value of the work. The last principle, which has been developed only recently, is that of minimum alteration. This means that any operation carried out on the work should be kept to the minimum essential as any operation puts the work under physical strain. There are also very few materials that we are sure we can undo because they haven’t been in use for long and we are not sure of how they will react with the passage of time. For this reason it is very important during a restoration to keep detailed notes accompanied by photographs in order to provide future restorers with important information on the techniques and materials that were used during the restoration.
At first these concepts may seem a little complicated, but when you find yourself in front of a painting and you have the minimum of experience and a lot of passion, everything comes naturally. You have a piece of history in your hands which has formed part of the lives of many other people and you have to do everything in your power so that as many other people can admire it. Love of art is the basis of restoration and I assure you that it is a wonderful thing.
Welcome to the world of restoration.

Luppi M.Giovanna

Reversibility means that every restoration in which a “piece” is added to the painting must be distinguishable from the original without disturbing the overall visual effect of the work. For example, if a painting has a coloured part missing, this space is closed up with plaster and then covered with colour. This is applied so that it can be distinguished from the rest of the painting if examined up close, but does not disturb the overall view of the painting.

Recognition means that it must be possible to remove every restoration because even if the materials used at the time are suitable, they may change over time and no longer be suitable for the function for which they were originally intended. Also, in the future new more suitable materials may be discovered. It is not always easy to respect this principle. For example to consolidate the colour in a painting materials are used that penetrate deeply into the canvas and are difficult to remove.

Luppi M.Giovanna

(Tr. Sara McCann)

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