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Family History Portraits and other Old 19 th Century Paintings Ask yourself these 3 important questions!

This family portrait was brought to us by the exhibits coordinator for the National Archives and was really in sad shape. I write every once in awhile about family portraits but you have GOT TO SEE this one! What a mess! There are actually 5 rips/holes. Notice the 18″ slash down the left side. And dirty?!!!! Next to the before treatment photo is a raking light shot that shows off the distortions/gathers in the canvas. Its enough to make you cry‌

How did this painting get into such precarious condition? Well, to tell you the truth, it is not ALL the fault of a careless owner. 19th century European pictures are made with canvas and other materials that embrittle 100 x faster than canvas 200 years older! Additives for mass production are the culprits and the results are brittle, fragile paintings that rip and puncture so easily its scary.

So, case in point, this painting canvas was so brittle that with very little effort it was ripped to shreds and the tacking edge nails had pulled through the fabric so the edges were loose and the painting was barely hanging onto the stretcher bars. While of course the rips are sad, there is a bit of good news: Because the fabric ripped and didn’t fray, the paint did not get knocked off in the areas of damage. Flaking paint is at a minimum. If you have 19th century paintings that are unlined (no additional backing), be super careful while handling or storing! Also, the surface of the painting was LOADED with dirt, grime and discolored varnish… nicotine? Except it was adopted by a preservationist soul, this portrait and piece of history was destined for the trash. Professional art conservation and painting restoration to the rescue. The rip repair of this painting’s ripped edges were rejoined under the microscope and, in fact, here’s a video to show how we do it: The cleaning was actually, surprisingly not so difficult. Once the varnish was dissolved, the rest of the dirty layers washed away with it’s removal. What a difference!!!! Here’s a photo after all the art conservation treatments were done.

This painting has minimal touch up done (inpainting) and many imperfections,

that are original to the painting or are a result of the artist’s technique, remained. The goal was to have the portrait look great… but have it be as original as possible. So again, how did this painting get into such precarious condition? As you might imagine, all of this damage is caused by handling and the way it was treated. In other words, all of this damage was avoidable… or preventable! 1. What circumstances do your paintings find themselves? 2. Are fragile old paintings displayed in high traffic areas? 3. Are paintings not on the walls simple leaning against themselves in the closet, garage or basement? Immediate action to remedy the situation may save you many $1,000′s of dollars! Art conservation questions? Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438 Art appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate 805 895 5121 Follow us on Fine Art Conservation Lab and Scott M. Haskins

To learn more about what you can do at home to take care of your stuff, download now a copy of Scott’s book, How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster at 50% off! CLICK HERE to know more:

Family History Portraits and other 19th Century Paintings  

Why are 19th century paintings so fragile?! Look what happened to this poor picture! Unbelievable!

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