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My Personal Antique Restoration Philosophy

Art Restoration should only be done by art conservators who are both qualified and have had much experience in the field. When approaching a work, they must never allow themselves to forget that it is of tremendous value, and must always keep in mind its historical content. To delegate such responsibility to those unqualified is to risk destroying the work by neglectful methods or materials.
There are many different philosophical approaches and technical methods available to art conservators, and it is imperative that the most appropriate choices be made for any one work. When making these difficult decisions, conservators must be aware of how the work has suffered from age, abuse and neglect. They must also be aware of how the work has been previously restored or altered, and also of their own limitations so that they do not attempt methods with which they are not familiar. When approaching a work, conservators must always experiment with various techniques, and must rely on their instincts to know which experiments are most likely to be successful. It is of primary importance that the methods employed must not alter the original any more then is absolutely necessary, and that any treatments be as reversible as possible. The minimum necessary treatment must be employed of the maximum quality. All stages must be documented with detailed descriptions and photographs through out the restorative process.

Only professionals with comprehensive knowledge of art restoration should attempt to restore any work. A mere technician should likely neglect to employ the most appropriate of the many available options. Only the finest restoration can effectively preserve the important historical works that so enrich our cultural heritage.

To achieve an honest and lasting restoration, there must be a fusion between the technical, artistic, and historical situational aspects of conservation in order to create a unique approach for each restored piece. True restoration begins with intense research which leads down a path of practiced thought that allows for a minimal manipulation of the object, “priming non nicer”.

To achieve this there must be a precision work executed with the correct tools and methods. Many works have been damaged by the shortsightedness or greed of conservators who have no love for the living history of each antique. The time and money spent to have an antique restored incorrectly can be far greater and in the long run will exceed the extra expense need to have the piece restored with careful foresight originally. A restoration that is executed without regard or knowledge of appropriate period construction methods, or materials may permanently damage the piece forcing a once priceless commodity to become a worthless relic. At the capitalist meccas known as auction houses three can be little money spent for restoration beyond that which will ensure the greatest profit margin. In the atmosphere of this mindset many important pieces in the living history of mankind become victims of deleterious work and lost forever.

For example, nails and screws where there were non originally can restrict wood expansion and contraction, causing cracks, bubbles or other cosmetic blotches. While this may be the most expedient method, it will not only eventually look unattractive but will increase the rate of future deterioration.

To achieve “rimin non nocere”, the restorer must respect the natural finish, use color sparingly, and remove old finishes only when absolutely necessary. To respect the integrity of the piece, the restorer must have a throughout knowledge of finishes to assure not only the correct appearance but a lasting chemical bond with the original surface. Both the use of color and the stripping of old finishes must be done with extreme skill and caution so that the fragile balance which has led to the antique’s longevity and beauty can be maintained.


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