According to the dictionary restoration means “the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing, cleaning, stabilising or consolidating it.” Restoration means bringing back something that had existed before. The cleaning of a work of art is an important part of the entire restoration process.
A variety of substances can obscure the original beauty of a painting:
- The accumulation of surface dirt
- Sediments of dust or smoke etc.
- Fly droppings, paint and substance spilling
- Yellowed or discolored varnish
- Badly executed or aged previous restoration attempts
When cleaning a painting, a small ball of cotton wool is wound around a wooden stick to form a cotton bud. This is then dipped into the solvent and disposed onto the varnished surface by rolling and/or gentle rubbing movements. The capillary action of the cotton wool absorbs the dissolved varnish into the bud until it is saturated. This “dirty” cottonwool bud is then discarded, one makes a new one and starts all over again.
The cleaning of paintings requires specific knowledge, years of experience and a lot of patience. To everybody’s benefit the process of cleaning a work of art should best be left in the hands of professionals.