One of the most crucial phases of my job as an art dealer and art historian is the constant dialog with the restorer.
My primary job is to select artworks often untouched for decades or even centuries and therefore to try to see their quality and potential underneath layers of dirt and discolored varnish or under retouchings and previous restorations that often cover and pollute the original paint. To do so, you need to exercise your eye.
In this Blog I would like to show two examples of how the simple cleaning of a painting can literally reveal the real quality underneath that film of dirt that dulls an artwork and makes it impossible to appreciate at its best.
Here are some pictures of two paintings I have recently acquired which will highlight the cleaning process: The Self-portrait of Paolo Guidotti Borghese, circa 1615-1620 and the beautiful Landscape with the conversion of Saint Peter and Andrew by Agostino Tassi.
In both cases the restorer has essentially only removed the dirt, releasing the original layer of paint. Naturally, in some small areas where the paint has faded or fallen, the painting needed to be filled in with some minor interventions as past restorations had overcleaned the surface. Essentially I ask the restorer to act only when necessary in order to preserve the original painting and in-paint as little as he can, or as we would say in italian “ricucire la superficie pittorica”. This is why, if I realise that the conditions of a painting are not great, I tend not to buy it. For this reason a sound relationship with the restorer is crucial to the fine outcome of my job. it is he (or often her) that has the responsibility of giving new life to and artwork and to hone its quality.