Some quick words about antique restoration.

Sooner or later you probably will have a piece you own or are thinking of buying that needs some professional attention / repair. A classic example is chairs. Every 50 to 70 years they need to be re-glued. Natural hide glues last about that long and then they start letting go. The chair is fine but wobbly and overtime it will start coming apart. Paintings that are not protected by glass eventually will need a professional to remove the accumulation of time from its surface. Certain old finishes will scratch or fade over the years. Eventually given your aesthetic preferences you might chose to have the finish refreshed or decide to remove the old finish and replace it with a new one.

Bad restoration is fairly common. Sometimes brave souls will decide to do it themselves. I have seen the books offering general instructions about how to proceed. If your piece is valuable an unsympathetic restoration will leave you with something you might not recognize and worse has lost a good deal of its value. A few years ago I had a painting that needed a light cleaning. We had tried to sell it for a while and the yellowed dirty coat of varnish left the painting looking like it had hepatitis. Someone that I buy from and like very much insisted his partner would do the work reasonably and I would be very pleased. In the 18th and 19th centuries occasionally an artist would use todays equivalent of tar to create contrast / depth. This practice was not uncommon unfortunately because this type of paint is quick to dissolve in even mild solvents without the proper training your painting has a fairly good chance of being ruined. After about 6 weeks I got a phone call that the painting was ready to be picked up. When I saw the painting I thought someone was playing a joke on me. Unfortunately this was not the case. My 300 year old painting looked very bad. Much had been lost in the cleaning including some jewelry. It looked like a cross between a Francis Bacon painting of a goldfish and a smudge. The inept restorer offered to put the painting back to about where it started. Of course this effort failed. He needed money and the painting was ruined. I lost the painting and for personal reasons I ended up paying some reduced amount for this persons hard bad work.

I strongly recommend you get the best possible advice about who should work on your piece and what it might cost. If you do not have a written estimate the price ultimately might exceed what you where willing to spend substantially. Restoration done by the cheapest person you can find is not advised for the same reason most of us don’t have our cars repaired at the grocery store. Hopefully you have good advice and a written estimate. Hiring the most expensive person does not guarantee a good out come either.

Today I have a chance to sell a large beautiful painting. Unfortunately the client wants us to handle the cleaning. Our many years in business and we have trouble knowing where to send it. Calls have gone out and hopefully we will come up with a good restorer that we have not met yet. Talk to dealers and collectors. Please proceed with caution and good advice. Once a ham fisted restoration has taken place nothing will right the ship. Consider the much hailed DaVinci Salvatore Mundi that ultimately became a beautiful and very expensive guess of what the master might have painted. Last I heard the work was being displayed on a very large yacht in the Middle East. A friend from London said that it was perfect that the painting was in a modern sale as the majority of the work was modern.

Happy hunting & Happy New Year.




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Antique and Art Exchange

Antique and Art Exchange


We curate for designers and collectors for 25 years. Pieces range from curiosities to furniture that will make your home unique. San Francisco, CA. #aaxsf