Accueil Polychromies Secrètes
musée des Augustins
Mairie Toulouse

Different restoration options

In the case of a sculpture or painting, restoration nowadays presupposes a phase of preliminary study of varying length, in order to gain a very precise knowledge of the exact state of the work : the extent and nature of additions subsequent to its creation; changes to the original design made by the artist him- or herself; an analysis of the causes of any damage sustained etc.

Detail of the technique of trattegio
in the picture Les Saints Honores
dans l'Ordre des Franciscains
Musée des Augustins.

Photo Daniel Martin.
Once conservators are in possession of these different elements, they are faced with choosing the nature of the intervention. Should the work be de-restored in order to get closer to its original condition, which actually has been lost for ever ? To what extent should lacunae in a painting or polychrome be reinstated ? Can one, should one recreate a missing part ? Many questions, which are debated (sometimes heatedly) by conservators, restorers, academics and scientists in commissions set up for the purpose.

Of the various options possible, paint layers are usually given:

> illusionist restoration, which entails a great deal of retouching and is intended to give the illusion that the work is intact;

> semi-archaeological restoration, the principle of which is not to fill lacunae with retouching and to leave visible the state of degradation of the work, which is part of its history.

Most often, the solutions chosen for each type of case give rise to compromises such as retouching said to be discernible from close-up but integrated from a distance, which can be obtained by using the technique of tratteggio, a network of vertical and parallel lines of pure tones, or that of pointillism or micropoint, a juxtaposition of points of pure colour. From close up, lacunae left exposed remain visible, but from a distance, the eye of the spectator recreates the unity of the work.