Tag Archives: Cleaning a Vintage Painting

Picture Perfect

During a recent trip to Washington, I enjoyed a lovely visit with my brother & sister-in-law (Mike & Pam) on Whidbey Island. And, as usual, acquired a few antiques. Among them, a lovely old pastoral painting in a wobbly, gilt frame. Something about the scene spoke to me & Pam encouraged me to buy it, saying she & Mike could make the frame fit.

Once back at the house, Pam got busy, first removing the old frame – stamped with “Made in France” on the back. (Ooooo, France!) Mike took the frame apart in his man cave, then brought the pieces inside & laid them on the table.

“Back to you, sweet Sis.”

Pam lent supplies to work on the grimy-looking frame parts. With a turpentine-soaked toothbrush, I began a gentle scrub, trying not to dislodge any of the remaining gilt.

Then, Pam handed me the painting to clean.painting-whalf-frame  How do I…? Uh…no idea.

Google offered some choices. But which was best? If I used the wrong method, I might ruin my precious painting. Gulp.

One wikiHow site warned, “…you can’t use water, paint thinner, alcohol, or any abrasive force.” Instead:

  1. Use saliva. (One’s own, I presumed.) Apparently, it was a technique promoted by many museum curators. “Saliva has enough enzymes to break down dirt and grime, but not so much that it will damage the paint.”
    1. Maybe so, but ew. Not a fan.
    2. That was a “no.”
  2. Use bread. Get a loaf of sourdough, break it apart & take some out of the middle. Rub gently against the painting…then brush it off. Really?
    1. On another site, the gal used the inside of a bagel. She seemed happy.
    2. Other sites cautioned, “No bread!”
    3. Okay…no bread unless it’s a sandwich.
  3. Use a soft brush. I had a clean blush-brush so I tried that, going over the painting little by little, using circular motions. I was pleased with the affect. One could see the difference between the treated & non-treated areas.

frame-in-gig

Soon, my bro & wife teamed up to trim the loose frame, Pam measuring & Mike using his table saw to trim a smidgen more. Once perfect, they glued & fit it into Mike’s homemade jig to “cure” overnight. The next day, painting & frame were reunited. Pam finished the project with new strap-hangers & wire.

And voila! A mini-masterpiece…the result of a lot of loving care. Looks great on the wall.painting-4Thanks, you two! What a beautiful & generous gift.

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