Restoration of an artwork

Here’s a fascinating video of a work of art being restored: it’s a self-portrait by the Italian painter Emma Gaggiotti Richards (1825-1912). Three of her paintings were given to Queen Victoria by her husband Prince Albert, and Victoria reciprocated with another Richards painting. The YouTube notes include this:

ReMade in Chicago, Baumgartner Restoration is a second-generation art conservation studio in Chicago. Follow Julian as he completely restores a damaged painting.

Music – Evolving Dawn by Paul Mottram

I have no idea what exactly the guy is using, or how this works, but he certainly knows what he’s doing, and I find it mesmerizing.

h/t: Michael


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Art restorers usually have a semi-proprietary concoction that they use with q tips to slowly clean the art. It’s a really arduous process that I’m completely unsuited for as I’m way too OCD & in no time there would be a hole in the painting right through to the other side.

  2. tubby
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Part of it is carefully removing the old glaze along with all the schmutz embedded in it, applying a new glaze, painting into the new layer to kind of simulate the look of painting into fresh oil, and finally reglazing again to protect the painting from dirt, cracking and flaking.

    • Diane G
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      Very helpful, thanks.

  3. rickflick
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Great work.

  4. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I, too, find the video mesmerizing; the music has something to do with it.

    Don’t forget this hilarious Furry Jesus “epic fail” Jesus also underwent very bad facial plastic surgery, or the restorer was influenced by Cubism.

    • Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Beast Jesus! that was funny.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      That one crossed my mind, too. Not even Jesus deserves that!

      Incidentally, even before the ‘restorer’ got at it, howcome it suffered so much deterioration in two years? Overenthusiastic cleaning?


  5. Liz
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful process and a beautiful painting.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about art restoration except that I see a lot of criticism of methods.

    Being an outsider, I was alarmed when the restoration person removed nails holding the weave against the wooden frame without using a protection to slide the tool against. I guess the idea is that the weave border is unimportant/can be glue reinforced when needed – but yikes, that procedure would be a demerit among artisans where I grew up!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that matters given the later treatment of those canvas borders. I think the only mistake [in my view] was the replacing of the old nails with new nails. I think the old nails should have been reused – some sort of hard, tough acrylic matrix applied to the surfaces of nails to make them reusable as nails. My reasoning is that we have no idea what scientific instrumentation will be available down the road & the nails may contain information we can’t imagine today. At least he reused the original wooden stretcher though.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        I should hope they’d preserve those nails, even if they don’t reuse them.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          If they’re original [as Mark points out] they should be kept with the work – in a box attached at the to the frame, otherwise the ‘chain’ of evidence could break so to speak. Not that I know anything about this restoration/preservation malarkey. 🙂

      • Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        Maybe those nails were known to not be original.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 17, 2018 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          “The Case of the Ersatz Nails” — sounds like a story by A. Conan Doyle. 🙂

  7. Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    For those who may want art restoration combined with Israeli spy thrillers, may I highly recommend Daniel Silva’s books about Gabriel Allon. I’ve read most if not all of them and eagerly await each new one.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Should I start with The Unlikely Spy or the first Allon book The Kill Artist?

      While waiting for your next Allon book you could try the Berlin Noir [that’s a link] trilogy of books by Philip Kerr. Intelligent, well written detective fiction within a historical Nazi ’30s/’40s context. The gum shoe is hard boiled Bernie Gunther – you can imagine the difficulties of asking unwanted questions & surviving in a thugocracy. Start with March Violets – set in 1936 Berlin. There are thirteen [?] books with Bernie G.

      Also Martin Cruz Smith’s series of eight [?] books featuring the hard put upon honest investigator Arkady Renko – the backdrop is a corrupt cold war Soviet Russia where the truth is provisional & plastic. Start with Gorky Park.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        You always have good book recommendations. I think you recommended Hyperion to me & I read the whole series.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that was me. Glad you enjoyed the horror of it all. 🙂

          Have you read Simmons’ Summer Of Night? It’s Stephen King style but better – as if King got a knock on the head & was no longer a clumsy, repetitive, clichéd wordsmith who can’t do dialogue. Recommended.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

            I haven’t read his other works yet….it took me forever to get through the Hyperion series as, though I like his story telling, he tends to describe things for way too long….I get it, I know how it looks enough in my own mind, stop telling me more about it. So, that took a while. Right now I’m finishing up the last book of the Bobiverse series – I really like that series. I’m also reading Fear sort of interspersed. I’m about 60% done the last Bobiverse one.

            I want to look at the Illium and Olympos books too but may read another author in between.

      • Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think I’ve read Silva’s first three books, which I may have to do now. I’d start with the first Gabriel Allon book, “The Kill Artist”.

        I will have to send off for the Philip Kerr books. I have read some Martin Cruz Smith books, including “Gorky Park”, but not all.

        So far over the last three days, I’ve finished:

        Joe Ide’s “IQ”. Chinese American author writing about hispanics and blacks in SoCal. Reminds me of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books.

        J.A. Jance’s most recent Joanna Brady book, “Field of Bones”, set in the southwest. (I think my favorites are her J.P. Beaumont books set in Seattle).

        Robert B Parker’s “Colorblind” about Jesse Stone written by Reed Farrel Coleman.

        I have a stack of books waiting. Next up are science fiction by Stanislaw Lem: “Fiasco” and “Solaris”, and a trilogy by Chinese author, Cixin Liu (“The Three Body Problem”, “The Dark Forest” and “Death’s End”.)Also have started: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Harari and a book about Prehistoric Civilizations of America (the Adena, Hopewell, Mississippians and Anasazi.)

        Always eager to learn of authors new to me or ones I haven’t read yet, as well as subjects I’m not familiar with. Thanks to all.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 17, 2018 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

          You are finishing a lot of books all at once. I can’t do that – prefer to read in serial rather than parallel. A nice selection of books – I’m looking them up. I know all the SF – Solaris is the best I think.

          • rickflick
            Posted September 17, 2018 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

            The film Solaris(1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky is very worth watching too. I haven’t read the book but I bet it’s good.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted September 18, 2018 at 5:55 am | Permalink

              Solaris: Get the recent Kindle eBook version translated directly from Polish by Bill Johnston [I don’t think there’s a tree version yet]. The older Kilmartin translation is Polish to French to English – Kilmartin has taken liberties with names which have an importance for a full appreciation. She’s also butchered the dialogue – utterly different book. The Lem/Johnston book is better than the film – we have to work harder as readers.

              I’ve seen both films & as you say the Russian one is the bee’s knees – it has the pacing matching the book. Doesn’t try to be attractive to the popcorn chewers & Kia-ora slurpers.

              • rickflick
                Posted September 18, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

                “Kia-ora slurpers”

                Boy-o-boy! Talk about yer cultural appropriation. There’s some right there. So far it hasn’t been introduced to the US. If Coca Cola tried to bring it in, you can bet DT would put a hefty tariff on it.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted September 18, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

                Kia-Ora Orange is right up his street
                It was a staple drink in Brit cinemas 50 years ago, but not any more – brilliant stuff if you’re a kiddo fuelled on sugar like me.
                It got into trouble using ‘racist’ ads as per this example below from the ’80s:

              • rickflick
                Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

                The ad looks a lot like Disney of an earlier era.

          • Posted September 18, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

            I don’t always get them read sequentially as I should. I’m easily led/misled off to other topics and books if/when I encounter something else that interests me more at the moment. (It’s all good!)I do try to read all the books by an author I like, or by many authors on a topic that interests me. And books recommended to me by people I trust.

            For example, instead of reading Lem, Liu, Harari, etc., I just turned aside and started reading a book of Neil Gaiman short stories, “Trigger Warning”.

  8. Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Good stuff! Bet he doesn’t have a cat, though.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink


      Wins the thread.


    • Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      The fur would get in the glaze. And the cat would stretch out across the masterpiece and give the restorer the look.

    • Caracal
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      The cat would walk across the wet glaze “see, I improved it”.

  9. Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Nice work that man…
    but couldn’t take the soundtrack so put it to Gymnopedie no. 1, 2 & 3 Erik Satie (1866-1925), Piano Solo

    and that was ‘just right’.

    • Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t like the music either. It was too over the top. Reminded me of the theme in “2001”, not in the notes themselves of course, but in the drama.

      • Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Yes indeed, way to much drama and out of sync with the visuals. It needed something that invoked care and methodology. IMHO.

  10. Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  11. scruffycookie
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m a painting conservator with 33 years of experience. I was trained at one of the three graduate schools for art conservation in the US. This “restorer” is doing things to this painting that are, in my professional opinion, very risky. He is scrubbing the surface with his gel mixture instead of rolling over the surface with the swab. He is handling and working on the reverse of the painting without facing the paint surface. He then applied–with a hand iron–a strip lining to a canvas that is clearly rotten and restretched it in a way guaranteed to create considerable additional cracking at the edges. At least the inpainting media he used is easily removable, even though it will darken considerably within a short period of time. *sigh*

    • Diane G
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:51 am | Permalink


    • Adam M.
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      One of the great things about this site is the wide variety of people ready to provide fascinating commentary about almost any topic.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 18, 2018 at 11:15 pm | Permalink


      • Diane G
        Posted September 19, 2018 at 3:36 am | Permalink


  12. Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    That is really neat. For example, before applying paint, the restorer puts on a clear coat so that paint touch-ups can be removed by future restorers. And in an area where white paint was applied, he even painted in crackling so that it would not be noticeable. Neat!

  13. Posted September 17, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Impressive. Technically helpful, but genuine to the original.

  14. Mike
    Posted September 18, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    If you can’t do it yourself,there is nothing more satisfying than watching great craftsmen at work.

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