There are often times when we receive an enquiry that our first thought is ‘How has that happened?’

When the damage is so severe or so unusual, it can be beyond belief to see what has happened to a painting. 

Such was the case when our client contacted us with a portrait of their Grandmother, as a young girl.

The painting was in good condition overall – except for a strip of canvas that had been torn away from the sitter’s face and left a gaping hole in the painting.

Take a look below for how we set about restoring the painting to make the artwork whole again.


One of the most important details we needed to ascertain from our client was whether they still had the rectangular piece that had been torn off. Thankfully it was in our client’s possession and could be securely reattached to the painting.

When pieces of a painting are missing, for example if there is a hole or a corner is missing, there are solutions for inserting or lining new canvas to the original painting. You can read more about how we restore paintings with missing pieces here. 

Aside from the obvious damage, there was another tear to the right of this main area of concern.

The restoration began with this tear repair using a thread-by-thread method to bring the individual fibres of the canvas back together. Where the canvas had been removed, there were hanging threads which needed to be tidied up.  We also trimmed the loose threads of the piece that needed to be reattached.

The loose piece was then reinserted into the canvas, and we used a similar thread-by-thread method to secure it back into place. Fortunately, there were no sizable pieces of canvas missing from the loose piece and so it fit back into place well. 

Once it was entirely stable, we continued with surface cleaning and varnish removal. 

With the piece of canvas back in place, it was then time to retouch the area around the tear to seamlessly integrate it into the rest of the painting. Filler was first applied to the painting, where the losses had occurred.

Our conservators then very carefully colour matched against the existing paint layer. This was a very considered process, as we needed to match against details that ran horizontally across the painting, while working upwards.

After this was complete, we re-varnished using conservation grade, non-yellowing varnish for a uniform finish and for future protection.

As you can see, the restoration and repair of the painting achieved completely seamless results; it isn’t possible to see that the painting had ever been damaged. Our client was delighted with the result and was pleased to receive his family painting back home, in one piece. 

If you would like our advice for your painting, please contact us for our no-obligation help.

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