18th century portrait fire damaged

18th century man before

Our professionally trained team is experienced in disaster response, especially when it comes to oil paintings and similar artworks which have been caught in a small or widely destructive house fire. Our conservators can help with every aspect of painting care following a fire, from collecting your artworks from the site of the blaze to their safe restoration and storage as your property is cleaned and repaired. 

Preventing loss and further damage 

Fire damage will lead to two significant areas of painting deterioration, firstly the paint layer will be affected by the heat and begin to crack, flake or lift away. Secondly, the smoke will land upon the surface, penetrating the weakened varnish layer – this will lead to both a darkened surface and the risk of contamination from toxic chemicals.

Fire damage restoration process

Our trained painting conservators will consolidate any cracking or lifting surface, as well as re-adhering any paint fragments which have come loose, this will help to maintain the value and historic integrity of the piece.

The surface contamination can be cleared away followed by a sensitive varnish removal, reviving the original colours and eliminating any risk of further deterioration. Following the restoration, the varnish layer can be replaced by a bespoke UV protective variety that is custom-made in our studio. New varnish will also be non-yellowing to avoid any future discolouration.

Areas of the canvas or frame may have suffered burns or become weakened, causing instability to the structure. Singed or burnt stretcher bars will make the painting lose tension, putting the paint layer at high risk of dents, folds and cracking. The surviving canvas can be relined and reinstated onto new stretcher bars. 

Treatments following fire damage include:

  • Removal of smoke, soot and harmful contaminants
  • Repair of tears and punctures to the canvas
  • Re-tensioning of the canvas
  • New stretcher bars to replace any weakened by fire
  • Removal of water damage following fire rescue
  • Stabilisation of heat disturbed paint layers
  • Consolidation of cracked or flaking paint
  • Sympathetic application of pigment to lost areas
  • Application of new protective varnish
  • Restoration and sensitive cleaning of the frame

Frames can also be restored and stabilised following fire damage. Our frame experts are able to sensitively clean gilding and recreate missing or burnt pieces. New gilding can also be applied to a historically appropriate level of finish. Frame restoration will ensure the painting can go back on display without the risk of cross-contamination or weakened hanging devices. 

male portrait fire after

Fireplace smoke pageAbove: a portrait of Beatrice Cenci (after Guido Reni) before and after restoration in our studio

Fireplace smoke damage

Oil paintings can also become damaged by recent or historic smoke from open fireplaces. This will leave a layer of discolouration on the surface, penetrating the original varnish layer, making it impossible to remove without professional intervention. Antique paintings have usually been kept in rooms with fireplaces over the course of their life, allowing this dark contamination to build up until the colours are completely obscured.

Our conservation team can remove fireplace soot by sensitively removing the varnish layer with appropriate solutions. Each oil painting is assessed to ensure that only the varnish will come away during this process, leaving the original composition safe and untouched.

Features hidden under smoke

Varnish removal on paintings that have been badly discoloured by an open fireplace sometimes reveals hidden features. In some cases, important details such as signatures and inscriptions can be uncovered. Having a darkened painting restored may allow you to see the vivid colours that have been hidden for hundreds of years.

Restoration following fireplace soot contamination or fire damage will allow your treasured artwork to return to display in its full glory and as the artist intended.

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Above: the inch-by-inch varnish removal process on a 14ft altarpiece painting in our studio, smoke damage caused by candles and other atmospheric contaminants

Thank you so much for cleaning and restoring my painting. Also your assistance in reframing it. The collection and return service was swift and efficient. I found your personal attention to the project most helpful. The painting is now bright and colourful and rehung on the lounge wall. I am pleased to recommend your services.

When moving home this summer we decided to have our antique paintings restored. The Fine Art Restoration Company were selected by us and the restoration was very professional. We were delighted with the final results which involved cleaning of several centuries of grime and glaze on the paintings and restoration of the frames. We can recommend their service to potential customers with absolute confidence.

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