Реставрация картины Иоганна Лампи "Портрет императрицы Екатерины Великой  | Реставратор - Ольга Клёнова

Art conservation is a set of practices aimed at preserving, stabilizing, and restoring objects of material culture. Restoration, often part of an art conservation plan, is a set of practices aimed at restoring a work of art to a condition as close as possible to its state immediately after creation.

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


Medallion by sculptor Ivan Shafovsky before and after restoration (SK-2100) Restorer Oleg Ivanov. 2011

There are three fundamental methods that are particularly important in contemporary conservation practices. One is preservation, i.e., work that does not change the item’s appearance from the condition it is in when the work begins. There is also the analytical method, which was largely developed during work in the Acropolis in Athens. Its main principles were clearly defined by Italian conservators in their 1932 Charter of Restoration, still the foremost methodological guide for art conservation in Italy. In Russia, a similar method was adopted by Igor Grabar, who formulated rules and applied them in practice under his supervision. Finally, there is the synthetic method, which is used only in exceptional cases to completely restore a piece of art, and includes the possible replacement of lost details. The analytical method’s most important principles, affirmed by the Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historical Monuments held in Venice in 1964, can be summarized as follows: a work of art is a scientific document, a historical primary source; the main objective in art conservation is to “read” this document and thoroughly stabilize the authentic, old parts of it.

These goals are best achieved when only the minimum amount of work is done on an item. All non-original elements must first be removed, and all subsequent additions use the latest innovations in art conservation. Modern art conservation techniques make use of all the newest scientific achievements and physio-chemical research methods in the attempt to stabilize the work of art. Many types of materials can be used in art conservation, but their outward appearance should resemble the original materials from which the piece was created, and the work should be reversible. Before any conservation work is done, the item must be scrupulously and comprehensively studied -- visually, technologically, and historically. The reason for any damage is investigated both visually and with special instruments, while technological means are used to determine the state of the original elements. With this information, possible ways of repairing the damage emerge.

Реставрация мраморной скульптурной группы "Похищение сабинянки" из Летнего сада в Русском музее | Реставрационный совет по скульптуре

The Summer Garden sculpture The Rape of the Sabine Women in 2004 (left) and 2011 (right)

If the item is in very poor condition, certain actions aimed at preservation are taken as early as during the preliminary inspection. Afterwards (or possibly during the preliminary study), photographs are taken to document its current condition. For the historical and archival research, everything available concerning the item is studied, even tangential written sources and photographs, paintings, drawings, medals, stamps, etc. in which the work of art is depicted.  For items of particular historical or artistic significance, as well as for objects significant as artifacts of the history of material culture, usually only preservational or analytical methods are used, with limitations on what is removed, preserving layers that have historical or artistic value.

Today’s scientifically-based art conservation methods evolve by studying the materials and technology used to create various objects, causes and types of damage and distortion, and the history of art and material culture. Before any conservation methods are applied to an object, a there is a comprehensive study of the item, involving chemical, optical, and physical investigation (e.g., x-ray, micro- and macro-photography, examination in infrared light, and spectral, chromatographic, microcrystalline, and other kinds of analyses). The conservation process returns lost structural strength to an object by adding similar materials (for example, by saturating the layers of plaster underneath a mural in limewater, or by applying isinglass to a primed layer of an icon or an oil or distemper painting) or very strong and stable synthetic materials that have no adverse effects on the item and can be removed. Deformations in the base material, primer, and painted layers of the painting are rectified, lost color and gold-plating are restored to sculptures and carvings, and elements of the object that have undergone chemical and structural changes are removed (completely or in part) or restored (e.g., removing darkened lacquer or varnish from paintings, removing flaking patina from sculptures and other articles made from copper alloys and various metals, whitening paper, restoring the color of white lead, etc.). Later additions to sculptures, decorative and applied artworks, paintings, and murals are partially or completely removed.

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

The progress of work is discussed at a meeting of the Russian Museum's Conservation Committee. 2016

Additions to a painting (most often encountered with Old Russian artwork) are preserved as an artistic historical document if they have been made in areas where the original paint had been lost and if they do not hinder a cohesive understanding of the original work. If the later layers of the painting have artistic or historical value, then, if possible, they are removed and placed on a new primed medium. It is only acceptable to add lost parts to material culture artifacts, paintings, or sculptures when it is to stabilize the original pieces (such as restoring the plaster layer of murals, the primer layer of an icon, or lost sections of canvas and primer in oil painting; replenishing paper pulp in graphic works, documents, etc.). In sculpture, disparate parts are connected and mounted (sometimes on a specially prepared frame). Bright white or colored insertions of primer that interfere with the image of the original painting are toned down with easily discernible but less noticeable paint. Arbitrary reconstruction of lost areas in a painting is unacceptable; but an exception can be made for oil and some other types of paintings, provided that the artist’s painting layer and primer is first isolated from any additions with a layer of easily soluble varnish.


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

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