Hidden features example

Hidden hand beforeAbove: an 18th century portrait before varnish removal in our studio

At Fine Art Restoration Company, our team of professional conservators often discover hidden features. Most often they find uneven or less sympathetic restorations from the past in which inappropriate or visually disturbing paint has been added. In some cases new areas have been added by an amateur artist, disturbing the original composition. 

Restoring altered paintings 

Our team can restore a painting back to its first condition, allowing it to be on display as the original artist intended. This type of restoration includes the removal of unoriginal paintwork and the careful and historically accurate retouching of small areas which may be in need of conservation.

If during a restoration process you wish to maintain any unoriginal paint (as long as it is not harming the painting) our team can also work to ensure these altered areas are not disturbed. 

Looking for hidden features

You can discover hidden features by looking for areas that may be raised or show a slightly different tone to the rest of the artwork, you may find that an area of over-painting is lumpy and not flat to the surface of the canvas like the rest of the work.

Over-painting from a different artist and period may have a different style entirely. You may be able to spot brushstrokes that seem to go against the rest of the composition or colours which do not quite match the original.

Hidden features

Changes to an antique painting are usually due to the following reasons:

Modestysociety may have found nudity or revealing clothing inappropriate in some eras, so they often commissioned changes such as added drapery or fuller clothes.

Religious beliefs – religious paintings may have also been altered over time, either to hide, destroy, or change the domination.

Superstitions a superstitious owner may have also altered features such as serpents or skulls.

Politics – portraits of influential figures such as Kings and Queens may have had their portraits adapted to represent more appropriate values. They could have been disguised completely to avoid the political consequences of the owner housing a painting of a contentious or overthrown leader.

Practical reasons – an artist may have either been unable to afford a new canvas, would like more room to study a subject, or has been unhappy with the original piece.

Environmental damageThe build-up of smoke, debris, dust, mould or extremely discoloured varnish may have led to such a high level of visual disturbance that the detail of the painting is no longer clear.

hidden hand afterAbove: the same portrait following varnish removal revealing a hidden hand
Sophie analysisAbove: our conservator Sophie checking a painting with a UV torch for signs of overpainting 

UV light assessments

UV torches are frequently used in our studio to find areas of overpainting, this helps our team to discover alterations before they begin treatment to know what to expect.

In some cases, this can also uncover an important signature or inscription, which may help with the painting’s value and further historical investigation. 

Anna tip

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I really appreciate the restoration and framing and framing you did for me. The result is very pleasing and I am sure that it will look terrific in the Royal Dragoon Guards Museum in York.

Very pleased with the work carried out. The picture was transformed, quite literally brought back to life! The team were friendly and kept me informed throughout the process, which was very reassuring. Thank you!

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