Реставратор Ольга Клёнова рассказывает о ходе реставрационных работ на Реставрационном совете (комиссии) Русского музея. 2017

Address at the Painting Conservation Lab. 2016

Art conservation is a series of practices aimed at stabilizing and restoring destroyed, damaged, or corrupted monuments of material culture.

There are three fundamental methods that have special importance in contemporary conservation practices. One is preservation, i.e., work that does not change the item’s appearance from the condition it was in at the moment the work began. Another is the analytical method, the most important features of which were developed during work in the Acropolis in Athens and which were clearly delineated by Italian conservators in their Charter of Restoration. The Charter was ratified in 1932 and remains the basic methodological guide for art conservation in Italy. In Russia, norms were formulated by Igor Grabar and applied in practice under his supervision. Lastly, there is the synthetic method, which is applied in exceptional cases and provides for the complete restoration of a piece of art.

The most important principles of the analytical method were established by the Second International Architects and Technicians of Historic Buildings in Venice in 1964. The principles are as follows: an artistic monument is a document for research and a historical source. The main goal of art conservation is the “reading” of this document and the thorough stabilization of the authentic, old parts of the monument. In order to achieve these goals, in art conservation, the least amount of work possible is performed. All non-original elements must be removed, and all additions are executed using the latest innovations in art conservation. Art conservation techniques allow for the use of all the recent achievements in of science and physiochemical methods of research for the stabilization of a monument. Various materials might be used in art conservation, but the appearance of the materials should resemble the original materials from which the monument was created, and the work should be reversible. Art conservation work is preceded by a scrupulous and comprehensive study of the item using visual and technological means and archival research. Visually and with the help of special instrumentals, the causes of the damage are investigated. Technological means are used to study the condition of the original parts. Possible ways to repair the damage emerge.

Medallion by sculptor I.F. Shafovsky before and after restoration. 2011

If the item is in critical condition, then steps to preserve the item are taken during the preliminary inspection. Then (or during the preliminary study), photographs are taken to show the details of the its current condition. During historical and archival research, everything is studied, even indirect, written sources; photographs, paintings, and drawings in which the monument is reproduced; as well as other images of the monument (for example, on medals and stamps). For items with historical or artistic significance, as well as objects that have significance as monuments of the history of material culture, preservation or analytical methods are usually used, limiting changes to current state and preserving layers that have historical or artistic value.

Conservation of fine art works and material culture more often aims to restore them to a condition that is as close as possible to their original form. Like the conservation of architectural monuments, it combines the understandings and processes of preservation and conservation proper.

Scientifically sound, contemporary art conservation is evolving on the basis of the study of materials and the technology used to create the object, the causes and forms of damage, and a thorough study of the history of art and material culture. Conservation is preceded by a preliminary comprehensive study of the item undergoing conservation, involving chemical, optical, and physical studies of the materials and technology used in the creation of the object (spectral, chromatographic, microcrystalline and other kinds of analyses, x-ray surveys, micro- and macro-photography, examination in infrared light, etc.). During the conservation process, the object undergoing conservation regains lost structural strength through the addition of related materials (for example, saturating the layers of plastic underneath a wall painting in limewater, by applying isinglass to the primed layer of an icon or an oil painting, or to the painted layer of an already-glued painting) or high tensile synthetic materials that have no adverse effects on the item. Correcting damage to the base, primed, and painted layers of the painting, adding color and gilding to sculptures and carvings, removing (completely or from individual sections) or restoring elements of the object that have chemical and structural changes (removing darkened lacquer or varnish from a painting or flaking patina from a sculpture and various articles made from copper alloys and other metals, whitening paper, restoring the color white lead, etc.). Later additions to the sculpture, piece of decorative art, painting, or mural are partially or completely removed.

Реставрация картин и икон в отделе реставрации Русского музея. Реставратор Наталия Романова

Layer-by-layer thinning of the yellowed varnish and removing of additions on the portrait by Ivan Nikitin. 2016

Additions to a painting, if they do not obscure the ability to view the artist’s preserved work, are preserved as artistic historical document. If the later layers of the painting have artistic or historical value, then it is possible to remove them and place them on a new primed canvas. Filling lost sections of objects of material culture, as well as paintings and sculptures, is acceptable when greater strength is needed by the preserved authentic sections (restoration of the plaster layer of murals, the primer layer of an icon, lost sections of canvas and primer in oil painting, replenishment of paper pulp in graphic works, documents, etc.). In sculpture, disparate parts are joined and attached (sometimes on a specially prepared frame). Bright white or colored inserts of primer that interfere with the ability to view the artist’s painting are toned by easily discernible and receding paints. Spontaneous reconstruction of lost spaces in painting is not allowed; it is a an exception in oil and other forms of painting under the condition of the preparatory isolation of the artist’s painting layer and primed layer from replenishment by a layer of easily soluble varnish.

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