The restoration of an Emma Gaggiotti Portrait – Narrated Version


This video is from a little while ago and it was shot by Jack Brandman, a really talented videographer here in Chicago He’s got a YouTube channel under ChicagoAussie And he makes great content particularly his Remade in Chicago series which features local craftspeople Artisans and their work in and around Chicago. So go ahead and check his youtube channel out. Give him a follow I’ll put a link up. It’s a really great content and I encourage everybody to see what he’s up to My client brought me this painting ostensibly because of the puncture in the lower section of the canvas that occurred during a move but during the examination we found that there were several old conservations that had discolored had worn and had suffered a little bit over time. In addition the original varnish was suffering from a bloom which is when the varnish becomes cloudy or milky usually as a result of exposure to moisture. So after diagnosing all those problems the client agreed that not only should we fix the puncture but we should take care of everything while we had the patient on the table so to speak. So the first step was getting the painting off of the stretcher and in this case the artist used nails so I’m pulling those out as opposed to using tacks, which is generally more preferred. Once the paintings off the stretcher and the stretcher set aside for cleaning later I can start to remove the grime and the dirt and all of that disgusting stuff that builds up behind the painting and the stretcher bar. With that cleaned I can begin the process of removing this patch This patch was put on with wax and luckily wax is soluble in several solvents and is a pliable material So it’s not terribly difficult to remove but care is still taken because we don’t want to subject the original canvas to any unnecessary tension or handling. With the patch removed the excess wax can then be scraped off we can begin the process of cleaning the painting. And before any cleaning is begun I make several tests in inconspicuous areas to determine the best materials, detergents, solutions, solvents for the painting that will remove the surface grime and the old varnish. Once that information is gathered. I can begin the process in earnest. So right there I was using a wax paste to remove the built-up surface grime and once that’s gone I can use solvents to remove the old varnish. And as we start to see the old varnish removed, we can begin to see what the artist originally wanted. This beautiful skin tones and other delicate paint applications that were otherwise obscured by that brown and yellow varnish. And whenever I move to cleaning a signature I’ll always switch to q-tips or smaller swabs just because I want to be a little bit more delicate and have a little bit more control because of course the signature is very important to the piece. With the painting cleaned I can move on to a vapor treatment which is a method using moisture, heat, and pressure that will allow me to relax the canvas and flatten it to remove any waves and ripples and other distortions and this takes place over a couple of hours and then the painting will go under weights and climatized for a couple of days. And once that’s complete the painting is flat, the canvas is smooth and even, and we can begin with some of the other structural work that needs to be done to repair the tears, punctures, and other damage that the physical canvas has received over time. Now while there are several methods of repairing tears or punctures to canvas, including patches or linings, I’m choosing something called the bridging technique which is a little bit lighter weight and less invasive than those other methods. And the bridging technique consists of lots of small fibers cut from Belgian linen laid perpendicularly across the tear in a bed of adhesive and this is just meant to hold the canvas flat and together so that it doesn’t open up and reveal itself on the face. So once the adhesive is laid down the little strands of linen can be set in the bed of adhesive and then they’ll be pressed as they dry so that there’s no distortion to the original canvas. And because the paintings tacking edge was frayed, delicate, and in some cases really small, I’ve chosen to add a new tacking edge which is called a strip lining and that’s done by taking a piece of Belgian linen and adhering it to the tacking edge using a Conservation Adhesive in film form. It’s ironed on and then pressed and allowed to cool and dry. And once this is done there’ll be plenty of meat on the tacking edge for the stretching. Now with the painting flat and on a stiff surface I can remove any excess wax that has seeped through the cracked and found its way to the face of the painting. And once this is done, I can begin the process of preparing the stretcher for the stretching. Now luckily in this case the wooden stretcher was not damaged or broken in any way shape or form but I still need to remove the old wooden keys and any nails or tacks that I might have missed earlier on. I’ll clean it up, I’ll square it up and then I’ll prepare for the stretching. I prefer to use steel tacks as opposed to copper tacks which can oxidize, or staples which are really just inferior, to secure the painting to the stretcher. Using a canvas pulling plier will allow me to apply even tension to the canvas and I use a magnetic hammer to drive the tacks through the canvas into the stretcher support. Now the keys which you can see me tapping in here are used to add tension to the stretcher, which is a non-fixed jointed wooden support. Now sometimes the keys are damaged or they’re otherwise missing and I’ll have to recreate them. In this case I’m using a piece of oak as opposed to a piece of pine because it’s a better material, It’s more rigid, and it can handle being tapped in better than the pine. Now once the keys are all secured I will fix them with a piece of fishing line and tack so that they don’t get lost in the future. And once all these tacks are secured I can begin the process of filling in the cracks and tears on the face of the painting so that I can begin the retouching process. Now using a putty I will overfill the areas where there is missing paint and then once that putty is dry I’ll come back with q-tips and cotton swabs and other tools to remove the excess because I want to make sure that I have an even, smooth surface onto which I can apply the retouching pigments. With the fill and medium dry I can apply an isolation layer of varnish to the painting and there are many reasons to do this, among them is to provide a barrier between my retouching and any future work and the original painting and two, it allows me to see the colors better and see them as they will look once they’re final varnished. I mean this is important because if I retouch according to the washed out, dried-out colors then when I put the final varnish on, the retouching isn’t going to match and I’ll have to redo it. Now retouching unlike painting requires a different approach both in technique and materials. So instead of using oil paint, I’m using my Meri Restauro, which is a conservation grade paint that has no oil in it. And that’s important because oil oxidizes over time and becomes permanent. This pigment will never be permanent, it can always be removed with the appropriate solvent. And as oil oxidizes it darkens and changes color. Now this paint, because it has no oil, won’t change color over time thus keeping the retouching more accurate longer. And the other main difference between painting and retouching is that painting you have the freedom to apply as much pigment as you want whereas retouching we are really just focused on the areas where there are losses. It would be inappropriate to add pigment anywhere where the original pigment is still existing. And so the conservator must limit any pigment that they’re applying to just those areas of damage or loss. In this case just the tears and the cracks. And there’s no secret to retouching it’s just a matter of practice and patience and the more you do it the better you get at it and the more you do it, the more quickly you’re able to determine how to mix a colour based on your palette. That is you can see all of the colours that make up one colour without having to labour to that point. And once the retouching is finished the varnishing process can begin. In this case I’m using a synthetic resin ultraviolet stable plasticized Varnish designed for conservation. And this varnish will remain soluble for about a hundred and two years in mild solvents. It will not yellow. It will not darken. It will not bloom with exposure to moisture. It will not fail like the old varnishes do. And every once in a while a little hair gets stuck in the varnish and so it needs to be removed using a scalpel. With the varnish finally applied I can put the painting back into the frame. And in this case instead of using nails or screws I’m going to be using metal brackets or picture clips because they are easier to install, they provide better support and they don’t damage the original painting at all. So: with the painting fully conserved, the damage addressed, cleaned and put back together in the original frame all of my work is complete and the painting is ready to go back up on the wall and be enjoyed by my client for many years to come. So thanks for watching this video. A huge thanks to Jack Brandman for spending countless days in my studio shooting and following around. Go ahead and give him a follow, check out his channel. There’s some really great content. And of course if you’re interested in what you’ve seen here, you can find me on instagram or you can just click to subscribe.

100 Replies to “The restoration of an Emma Gaggiotti Portrait – Narrated Version”

  1. Ok I cracked up on the part where he states he did several tests in inconspicuous areas, but the shot that lined up with that was right as something was being applied to the face. I thought "well I guess her face is inconspicuous"

  2. Restoring implies returning to an original state. Is this exactly what is being done here, or is it just to increase its monetary value?

  3. She was beautiful prior to restoration but she gained so much color when you cleaned and retouched it. Super cool!!!

  4. Oh My Goddess, I had no idea the level a conservator must go in order to preserve such a beautiful work of art. My heart felt admiration on a job well done.

  5. If I was asked to restore a painting, I'd be terrified of spilling coffee on it, even if I wasn't drinking coffee. The first day on the job would be a nightmare 😂

  6. Holy shit, as a restorationist i'd think you'd be FAR more careful removing nails, as to not damage the original canvas and frame!

  7. You should have worn surgical gloves – Your Skin Has Oil on it and will contaminate the Painting.

    Using a Fluorescent Light will show Your Hand Prints all over the painting.
    Nasty.

  8. Am i the only one who thinks they should just leave these paintings to age on their own without needing "repairs"

  9. these videos are so satisfying to watch. Whenever I need a pick-me-up I always like to watch YouTube, mostly painting restaurations, floral foam crushing, instant karma videos, blackhead, cyst and ear wax removals, hoarder house makeovers, and videos of people organising their collections of various kinds of things. I wonder what my ancestors from pre-Internet times would think about that.

  10. I want to be a student of paint restoration. I dont care about pay, status in life, or an art degree! I will work for free. Seriously. I will pick up your trash for the next 5 years just to learn this. I was an art student, IT guy, and architect…this sings to my soul. Please DM me.

  11. I love your work and the great care you provide to these beautiful pieces of history. Thank you for sharing and for caring. Your excellence is certainly an inspiration.

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