We came across this article, courtesy of the Fine Art Restoration Company who specialise in restoring paintings and wanted to share it with you as many of your clients will have fine art that may need attention. Whilst the winter sun is setting, many of our clients often turn to the use of candles and fireplaces to lighten and warm their homes. Whilst this cosy atmosphere may be appealing, it is a prime moment for smoke damage to occur – leaving valuable artworks, sculptures and furniture in a discoloured and deteriorated condition. Protecting paintings Our conservators often come across localised areas of smoke and fire damage due to the use of candles. In some cases, wall sconces may have been used to light a painting – leaving patches of discolouration and areas of raised, cracked and disturbed paint due to close contact with a heat source. In the worst cases, painting can accidentally become burnt and singed due to this historic method of lighting. To prevent this damage, candles should not be lit in close proximity to an artwork, away from the surface and frame of the painting by a good distance so as to not affect the piece with its heat or flame. Candles should only be used for a few hours at a time in a well ventilated space to avoid the build-up of surface contamination. If a painting is damaged by a candle, our conservators can work to prevent further deterioration. Any areas of raised, cracked or flaking paint can be saved through careful consolidation techniques. Layers of burnt varnish or paint can be carefully removed and any missing pigments can be sympathetically retouched. Retouching is only carried out specifically where it is required to ensure historic and artistic integrity. A discoloured painting can have its surface cleaned with tested solutions before undergoing a varnish removal to fully take away any contamination. The varnish layer can then be replaced with a new, conservation-approved variety. Where frames have been burnt or become discoloured, our framing experts can also provide stabilisation treatments, specialist cleaning and re-gilding of surfaces. Ornaments and interior decoration Ceramics, sculptures and other ornamental features in a home may gather dust and contamination from the atmosphere over time, this includes the smoke emitted from candles and hot wax that may drip onto surfaces. Whilst antique candlesticks and candelabras may have an original intention to hold a lit candle, you may want to avoid use if the piece is highly valuable or delicate – such as those with porcelain features. To fully avoid contamination, precious ornaments should be displayed safely behind glass. As with paintings, candles should be kept at a good distance from sculptures, busts and other large decorative objects. This is to avoid any interference from heat or discolouration from smoke. If a porcelain item or similar ornament is damaged by a candle, our ceramics conservator can professionally clean and restore the damaged area, this includes the cleaning of localised staining from coloured wax or smoke and colour-matching of any lost pigment in these areas. If a piece has become missing due to fire damage, our conservator can work to recreate this. Traditional and modern furniture Wooden furniture, especially valuable pieces that have a French polish finish, should never have a heat source placed directly upon them. Not only could the heat damage or warp the wood, but dripping wax could also leave marks and a lasting visual disturbance on the polished surface. As well as traditional pieces, modern furniture may also be at risk as the heat can distort areas made of plastic or stain white or block colours with soot and wax. When a modern table has areas of melting plastic or severe burns, this may not be possible to restore, so our team recommends avoiding any heat or flame when setting a dinner table or decorative area. If candelabras or candle sticks are placed on a table, you can use a heat proof mat beneath a table cloth to prevent damage. However, the best precaution is to keep any open flames away from valuable furniture. If you have concerns regarding a painting or would like advice, please contact Julia Stockdale at Fine Art Restoration Company.
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