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Removal of varnish and overpaint

Brush removing varnish from paint

Over the years, paintings can darken with the accumulation of layers of dirt and soot.  In addition, the varnish used to protect the paint layer can yellow with age.  This can leave paintings looking dark and a long way from the artist's original intention.  In many cases, carefully removing these layers can return the painting to something like its original state.

This process is only undertaken after careful tests, to ensure that no damage is done to the underlying paint layers, and with the consideration that any intervention must be reversible.

Heavily varnished painting showing a village sceneThe Royal Collection has two exceedingly fine examples of Isack van Ostade’s art: A village fair - acquired by George IV in 1810 - and Travellers outside an inn of 1647, which was once in the distinguished collection formed in Amsterdam by Jan Gilde
Before varnish removal
After varnish removal

Case studies using this process

Conservator working on Ostade's Village fair
Cleaning Isack van Ostade's 'Village Fair'

Cleaning this painting revealed a surprising figure

'Juno seeking from Jupiter the gift of Io transformed', transformed

Cleaning leads to a definitive attribution

Pagoda on chinoiserie pedestal up close
Conserving Chinoiserie: Revealing hidden details

Short film about the conservation of chinoiserie pedestals

Conservator in workshop working on Mughal painting
Conservation of a Mughal painting

Cleaning revealed the painting's original bright colours and details

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.