Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Easel Oil Paintings
Laboratory Director Viktor A. Korobov
Restoration work began in the Hermitage from the very foundation of the museum. The Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Easel Oil Paintings works at the conservation and restoration to original condition of paintings and icons which are in the exhibitions and storage facilities of the Hermitage. The ever increasing exhibition activities of the museum present the laboratory staff with new challenges. The restorers check on the state of conservation of monuments, prepare them for showing outside the Hermitage (performing conservation and restoration work and compiling the necessary documentation that will accompany the exhibits), and verify their safe-keeping during their showing. Since the time when the laboratory was set up, most of the paintings which are permanently kept in the Hermitage have undergone restoration and conservation treatment there.
The laboratory team applies methods and restoration materials which have stood the test of time. They are keepers of traditional methodology for strengthening and lining oil paintings through application of sturgeon fish glues, as well as the methodology of restoring lacquer coating and eliminating the changes from the previous restoration that distort the original painter's colour balance. All their work is confirmed, verified and passes acceptance procedures of the Hermitage's Restoration Commission, which consists of curators, restorers and staff in the Department of Scientific and Technical Expertise.
The complexity of the restoration work undertaken in the laboratory is appropriate to the level of conservation of the Hermitage's collection of paintings, which requires individualized approaches to various works. There is a tradition of assigning each restorer to a certain group of art works. The restorer and the curator of this group regularly check the condition of the paintings on display or in the storerooms and in case of need they establish priority work to be done.
In 2003 a branch of the laboratory was opened in the State Hermitage's Restoration and Storage Centre in Staraya Derevnya. Here the restorers are able to work with large-scale paintings which have been stored rolled up for many years. After removing the paintings from the rolls, specialists perform necessary restoration work using the most modern equipment. The result of this complex process is the presentation in the Hermitage rooms of works of art that were hitherto unknown to the broad public.
The Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Easel Oil Paintings participates actively in the Hermitage's exhibition work. During the course of the year around 40 temporary exhibitions are sent around Russia and abroad. In recent years paintings have been prepared for showing in such major exhibitions as Women in Art (Washington, USA), The Stroganoffs. Art Patrons and Collectors (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Rembrandt and his School (Dijon, France), Rubens and his Age ( Barcelona, Spain), The Romanovs as Collectors. European Art from the Hermitage (Michigan, USA).
Among the most significant and unique work which has been carried out in the laboratory in recent years is the restoration of the canvases The Flight into Egypt by Titian; The Adoration of the Magi, by Rubens' workshop; The Adoration of the Shepherds by Berchem; Soldiers at Rest by Jacob Duc; and Zwinger in Dresden by Bernardo Belotto.
In the year 2000 the laboratory staff took part in the restoration of 39 paintings by the "small Dutch masters" held in the Hermitage storerooms. In December 2001 the restoration work was completed on the Snyders and Rubens Room, which is one of the most beautiful in the Hermitage. Over the course of several years, the laboratory has carried out technical work and painting restoration involving 92 Flemish paintings.
The most important project of the Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Easel Oil Paintings during 2002-2003 has been the restoration of the portraits of Russian military commanders who took part in the campaign of 1812-1814; these are exhibited in the War Gallery of the Winter Palace and constitute a memorial in honour of the victory of the Russian people during the Patriotic War. In all there are 329 portrait busts and 7 full-length portraits.
The multi-faceted activity of the laboratory is carried out by qualified staff on a high professional level. Besides their basic work, they guide pre-diploma practical work by students of the restoration workshop from the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.
1. The Restoration of Titian's
painting "The Flight into Egypt"