Over their long lifetime, antique Russian icons are subjected to various factors that can alter their original appearance and even damage them. RussianIcon, being the leader and expert on Eastern Orthodox Church icons for almost a quarter of a century, has an extensive experience in terms of restoring. We work with a highly-qualified team of world-known professional restorers, specializing in museum-quality antique Russian icons, who treat the subject very carefully. These exceptional specialists have proven themselves repeatedly by completing a great number of restoration projects of all difficulty levels. Each of them was done on time and, what is also very important, on budget! It is no exaggeration to say that our restorers are the finest in the world, and by saying “in the world,” we mean it in the world, as they have restored many of the very special antique Russian icons for museums throughout the globe. Thereby, please keep in mind that sometimes the process of restoration is rather lengthy and can take from a few months to a year simply because such highly-qualified people are extremely busy and often booked in advanced.
As you know, Russian Orthodox Church icons are usually painted on a wooden surface with the use of organic paints. Therefore, they can easily be damaged by microorganisms, including insects, bacteria, fungi, and even mold. Another one merciless enemy of antique Russian icons is the improper storage, not to mention temperature fluctuations, excessive humidity, and all types of mechanical damage. As a result of all this, protective varnish may lose its transparency or darken and, thereby, has to be replaced. However, in restoration of a unique religious icon, it is extremely important to understand whether this process will alter its originality. Unfortunately, a number of rare antique Russian icons subjected to non-professional restoration lose their historical value and original appearance. For this reason, we do not always recommend for the item to be restored if we know it will affect the precious value and the overall appearance of the Orthodox icon. In each particular case, we carefully evaluate the item, and if the restoration is recommended, we provide a detailed estimate and very thoroughly describe what exactly has to be done.
Quite often, Russian religious icons we receive for restoration seem to be irreparably damaged. Despite this, there is still hope! Even if the original painting is not visible, and the large areas of the top layers are completely lost, our professional restorers can revive them to the original luster. However, the number of antique Russian icon restoration operations should be reduced as much as possible to preserve the uniqueness of the item. Modern methods of religious icons restoration permit the application of different physicochemical methods, as well as all of the latest science achievements able not only to return the item to its original condition but also to strengthen it. For today, lots of contemporary materials are used in the antique Russian icons restoration process, but you can be sure that almost all of them are reversible and, what is more, close to the icon’s original materials. Moreover, professional restorers always aim to blend the restored parts with original surfaces of the religious icon to create a unified appearance without any visible signs of restoration. As for the modern methods of latest layers clearing, they have also changed over the years. Thus, traditional methods with the use of the scalpel and organic dissolvent have given way to special micro instruments and scrupulous, careful work under the microscope. Nevertheless, working with authentic Russian Orthodox Church icons for years, we can say with confidence that there are no two absolutely identical methods of restoring, as well as there are no two exactly identical antique Russian icons in their painting technique or construction. Each of them is an exceptional piece of multilayer religious icon art, usually consisting of a traditional wooden base, canvas, layers of gesso, a hand-painted layer, and, lastly, numerous layers of varnish. That is why the process of Orthodox icons restoration always begins with a careful examination and determination of the required operations.
For today, there are several types of restoration work used by Russian icon professionals:
- Complete restoration of antique Russian icons to their original appearance, which includes renovation, complete restoration, and artistically and scientifically justified reconstruction methods.
- Preservation of the original parts of antique Russian icons, which, unlike the first type, disallows any reconstruction of the losses and is limited to removal of overpaintings and preservation of the surviving parts of the old religious icon.
- Archeological restoration, which obliges the restorers to preserve previously restored and repaired fragments, as well as various overpaintings that embody the genius and the idea of their author.
- Reconstruction of the tonal unity and color, which is intended to reveal the possibilities hidden in the surviving fragments and to recapture the original artistic unity of the Orthodox icon without aesthetically damaging the work or committing a historical blunder.
If you would like to consider our professional antique Russian icons restoration services, first of all, send us clear photographs of your religious icon, both its front and back sides, as well as close-up images of its separate parts with visually apparent damage. Please note that after we receive these photographs, and before we have a chance to examine your Eastern Orthodox icon personally, we can give you only rough estimates and indicate the approximate time of the whole restoration process. In this way, for a detailed free estimate, you will need to bring your Russian icon to our New York office or physically send it to us. Don’t forget to pack it very carefully, especially if it comes to one of the museum-quality antique Russian icons! Besides, you are required to pay all of the charges involved, including shipping back and forth, and insurance as well. After we receive and examine your religious icon, we will provide you with a final time and cost estimate. The Orthodox icon restoration process will start right after your approval and payment. Contact RussianIcon now for further information!