Технологическое исследование и экспертиза картин икон скульптуры | Реставрация в Русском музее

Discussion of the results of an X-ray of a 13th century icon in the Russian Museum’s Technological Research Department. Department Head - Sergey Sirro (on the left). 2017

The Russian Museum's Art Conservation Department conducts technological and scientific (biological and chemical) research to assess the condition and integrity of visual and applied artwork with maximum accuracy. These research findings inform the decision-making regarding the choice of conservation strategies.

Department Divisions:

 Oil Painting Conservation

 Mixed Media Painting Conservation

 Old Russian Painting (Icons) Conservation

 Paper Graphics Conservation

 Ceramic and Glass Art Conservation

 Metal Art Conservation

 Textile Conservation

 Carved Icon and Wooden Sculpture Conservation

 Gilded Wooden Carving Conservation

 Picture Frame Conservation

 Lacquered Furniture Conservation

 Plaster and Stone Sculpture Conservation

 Contemporary Art Conservation

 Scientific Research

 Conservation Cordination Center


Технологическое исследование картины под микроскопом | Экспертиза живописи | | реставрация древнерусской живописи | Мастерская реставрации древнерусской живописи в Русском музее

By studying an artwork with a stereomicroscope, researchers obtain a wealth of information few other methods could match.

Исследовательские микрошурфы поздних переписок, на картине XVIII века.Отдел реставрации Русского музея. Реставрация картин. Реставрация живописи.

Fragment of paint layer under a microscope (magnified x 40).

Видимая люминесценция под воздействием УФ (ультрафиолетового) излучения в Отделе реставрации Русского музея

Photographs of a detail from the painting Portrait of N.S. Borshchova by Dmitry Levitsky, taken under regular lighting (left) and under UV rays (right). The UV photo shows the thickness of the yellowed varnish and exposes multiple later additions of paint on top of the varnish (the dark spots).

Рентгенографирование Рентгенограмма Отдел технологических исследований Русского музея. Сергей Владимирович Сирро

Detail from X-radiograph of Ivan Nikitin's Portrait of Unknown Men.

Химико-биологические исследование и экспертиза картин икон скульптуры в Отделе реставрации Русский музей

The Russian Museum’s biological and chemical research lab

Micro-sample of a fragment taken from a section of an artwork, under a microscope (magnified x 200).


First, a museum piece is studied under a stereomicroscope. Generating more information than most other research methods, the stereomicroscopic method is unmatched in accuracy when it comes to assessing an artwork’s integrity. It is the best method for exposing the extent of previous restorative interventions and, specifically, identifying older added touches of paint that were concealed under more recent coats of varnish, which UV testing often fails to recognize. Microscope-assisted research offers, for example, the only way to identify old restorative toning and any overpainting that, although dissimilar to the original paintwork in the composition of the coloring agents, the degree of transparency, and the texture, have over time become almost indistinguishable from the original work as regards transparency, are very close in color and, on occasion, have also developed the same crack patterns as the original painting. Microscope studies make it possible to identify the original color scheme of an artwork by analyzing the remaining original paintwork.

Second in importance is an examination of the front surface in UV light. UV rays will either reveal the cumulative light emission of the protective coats of varnish, the paintwork, and the primer, or the emission of each component separately in those parts where the primer or the paintwork are exposed. This provides valuable data on the integrity of the artwork (identifying missing paintwork and primer) and assesses the depth of later retouching in relation to the protective coats of varnish.

The findings of a UV study can be double-checked through microscopic analysis, while the pigments identified by the UV rays can be parsed by analyzing the chemical composition of micro-samples. When an artwork is subjected to UV radiation, the key features of the visible emissions to examine are the brightness, color, density, and uniformity of the painted surface, and whether there are any dark areas indicating instances of previous restorative intervention, pollution, or uneven application (or complete absence) of a protective coat of varnish.

Another key component in a technological study, X-ray (radiography) of the surface provides an additional opportunity to assess the integrity of an artwork, as it identifies certain irregularities that evade the naked eye: breaks in and losses of the base, paintwork, and primer; subsequent restorative interventions; evidence of transfer to a new base; etc. It will also help to identify some of the materials used in the painting. When analyzing the X-ray, the experts look at such critical qualitative characteristics as the readability of the image, the contrast of the light and shade pattern, and the detectability and shape of individual brushstrokes. Image readability is determined by the nature of the base, the composition of the primer and the paint, the thickness and number of coats of primer and paint, the techniques used to create forms and the types of paintbrushes used, and the presence or absence of prior restorative interventions.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis is a spectroscopic analysis method that has been widely used in recent years to identify the elemental composition of various substances. XRF is good for analyzing the composition of paintwork (including pigments) and primer. The XRF method collects and analyzes the spectrum obtained by irradiating the object of study with X-rays. The RFA method is easy, quick, accurate and requires no complicated sample preparation, so it’s no wonder that its application in the analysis of visual artworks is constantly expanding.

A biological and chemical study of a work of visual art is primarily aimed at gaining a comprehensive understanding of the composition and properties of the materials from which the piece was created. These studies allow the conservator to determine more or less exactly where the boundary lies between the authentic elements of a piece of art (i.e., those done by the artist) and later additions, and how to choose the right solvents to reinforce its structure. The optimal strategy and tactics for preservation can be determined based on the results of these studies. The spectrum of materials studied is quite wide, and includes paper, textiles, wood, stone, metal, minerals, and the organic substances that make up paint. Therefore the methods used also vary widely. A common approach is to study the stratigraphy and thickness of the paint layers, their transparency, and their components in thin sections of microscopic samples of material under transmitted polarized light, which can be magnified up to 1000 times.

We also study biological damage that has been done -- which can potentially cause an artwork irreparable harm -- and then determine the best method of fighting it.

The study and analysis of fine artwork is done by members of the technological research team and biological and chemical research team, part of the Russian Museum’s Art Conservation Department.


Artwork Conservation I Department Divisions | Technological Analysis | History of the Department Contacts | Video I Русская версия

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