Friday, January 15, 2010

Russian Royalty - Smuggled Out

Some of the most interesting art stories that I hear are the tales of smuggling artwork out of German or Russian occuppied territories. Who knows if they are true when you hear them. But a pair of turn of the century portraits came in the lab a couple of days ago that look like the real deal.

These two portraits were smuggled out of Russia about the time Stalin's Rule of Terror began. In fact, on her chest there are three rips that the owner swears are bayonet slices! Thing is, once they were cut out of their frames, rolled up like newspapers and smuggled out, they were left that way until two days ago! Actually, the current owner has unrolled them many times to look at them. In fact, through the owner's rough handling the painting ripped or broke apart! That is something that could have been avoided.

Note for your own benefit that the rolling up of paintings is very counter-productive to the preservation of the paint. Its understandable that if you're escaping a country with very few belongings and your life, that rolling up a painting is not a big concern. But otherwise, the technique used by Sean Connery in Entrapment (1999) will only destroy your artwork (and provide guys like me with job security).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cleaning lady's damage now repaired... for $3,600.00!

We're talking about the damage caused by the cleaning lady's damp rag reported at We thought you might like to see the final result of our conservation work.

Our careful cleaning of the grime (notice that the damp cleaning rag didn't remove this!) and the discolored varnish resulted in an almost magical glow of the colors. The glow from the fire in the boat has a very special effect.

We also lined the painting which means we added a reinforcement fabric to the back to strengthen the original canvas. That process also relaxed and re-adhered the cracking. Then we filled and inpainted the losses to match (with a little brush). Several layers of varnish, brush and spray applied, were the final process/treatment.

The result is truly wonderful, visually, and the deterioration was halted for decades to come.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti – A Disaster Preparedness Lesson 7 Tips to Help You

Once more, we are reminded about the awful effect and cost of human life, livelihoods and resources that are a result of an earthquake. This time in Haiti on January 12th.

Add to those tears the heartbreak of crumbling public and holy buildings full of memories, faith and art. Unfortunately, though, the country will not likely be on a fast track for repair. It’s too rural, not magnificent enough, not published in all the art books, not world famous enough -- and there is a lot of damage to deal with during trying economic times.

Of course, the center of damage is now rubble. But, there are many, many homes in the area that were only badly rattled. That’s the case, also, in a hurricane, tornado or even a bad storm; a focused area gets the brunt of the impact and the vast outlying areas just get shook up. So, actually, there are huge numbers of people that were not physically at risk, but they may have lost and had damaged many cherished family treasures.

Disaster preparedness for your personal items includes knowing how to protect your genealogy, heirlooms, photographs, letters, old books, art work and important documents. Set priorities and protect, first, your most important items. Here are 7 tips to help you be better prepared:

  1. Use an anchor wax to secure items that can fly off shelves and rattle around in display cases. (Home Depot) This is a VERY good tip!

  1. Keep photos in archival photo albums that are easy to grab and go. Keep them in a book case or storage box that is easy to get to.

  1. Keep storage boxes away from water pipes (water heaters too) that could break and flood on your treasured items (causing water and mold damage).

  1. Make sure hanging hooks AND wires are strong, oversized and well anchored into the wood. I can’t tell you how many paintings and frames I’ve repaired that fall off the wall onto a corner of a table or through a vase. Or what about that heavy item hanging over your head in bed!!??

  1. Photograph treasured keepsakes and copy docs; keep a copy in another location (another city or state!)

  1. You may need supplemental insurance for earthquakes. Make sure your homeowner’s policy covers your contents. Heirlooms should not require a Fine Arts rider but should fall under your regular home owner’s policy. You will still need photos and values for a claim (go to

  1. Get a copy of “How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster” (