A few years ago a close friend of mine brought along a painting by a great painter. Over a century old it looked dull and listless and patchy in certain places.
“Could you get those sections touched up?” asked my friend to the curator of one of the best art galleries in the city. She smiled. “To touch it up,” she said, “I’ll have to go to the core of the painting and start with the colours the artist originally used. Now what we see are colours mixed with layers of dirt.”
Can you restore a masterpiece? Imagine you are walking through the Louvre museum in Paris. As you approach Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting, you take out your handkerchief and try to rub off the shine from Mona Lisa’s hair. You pull out a palette and brush and try touching up the face. Maybe put some colour on her cheeks? She is not too good-looking you feel, so change her nose a little?
That’s ridiculous, you say! For nearly 500 years the Mona Lisa has been considered one of the greatest works of all time. How absurd to think we can restore this masterpiece!
Rebecca McLain, who restores valuable paintings, says that she has seen many works of art damaged when the owners attempt to clean them with oven cleaners or abrasive powders. Her advice: if you value the art take it to an expert for restoration.