Cleaning Icon


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It may interest you: The Sacred Icons: the complete guide Sacred Icons a way of living religion only apparently far from the modern. Let’s discover the secrets of this ancient and exciting art. Ancient icons were created by artists capable of concentrating in a single image, often of small dimensions, the story of evangelical episodes and the expression of spiritual messages of rare depth.

The sacred icon transcends the material of which it is made, the wood that supports it, especially basswood, beech or specially worked fir, on which a linen cloth is spread. Therefore, if we are lucky enough to have one, we must be able to take care of them in the best possible way. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s good to know who to turn to for the care of your holy icons. How to clean old icons Cleaning a painting, a fresco or an icon, as in our case, is a very delicate and very, very risky operation.

In fact, it is enough to make a small mistake to irreparably ruin a work of art. Interventions that take into account the different layers of paint, the superimposed layers of color and, obviously, in the first instance, the type of support and the type of color.

Washing a tempera painting with soap and water, for example, is equivalent to losing it completely, since tempera dissolves in water even after a long, long time. In general, water should be avoided, even for other color types, even in the frequent case where a fixative or lacquer has been used to fix the pigments. And if the final paint or varnish has not been applied afterwards, the dangers multiply. Paintings made with oil paint and those with final varnish are an exception to the prohibition of cleaning with water.

It may interest you: Ancient Russian icons: a world heritage site Ancient Russian icons are paintings of inestimable value and absolute beauty. As with all paints, it is necessary to carry out small cleaning tests, applying minimum doses of a delicate solvent in limited areas of the paint.

The solvent is applied with a cotton pad or a towel or with a bit of cotton fixed in tweezers, rubbing in the direction of the brush stroke. With another cotton pad soaked in another solvent capable of combating the first, we must be very prepared to intervene to stop any damage. Only once we are sure of the effect of the solvent on the layers of paint can we proceed, always with caution, to our cleaning.

In cleaning the icons, then, it must be taken into account that in many cases this type of painting was retouched and repainted several times. Also the stripping of the protective film must be done very gently, trying to rub in the different points of the painting with a cotton pad impregnated with a very weak solvent, to see what happens. Even paint oxidation or deeply embedded impurities can make this extremely delicate and extreme operation necessary.

But even in this case it is better to go to an expert, instead of doing harm. Mineral water and trichloroethylene in small doses dissolve resins and waxes. How to keep old icons Preserving an old icon in the best way is not a trivial operation. The good conservation of these works is determined by various factors, some related to the construction of the work itself, such as the type of wood used for the support, its curing, others by the environmental conditions in which the icon is kept.

One of the first precautions that must be taken to protect our ancient icon is to place it away from direct sunlight, but also from any other source of heat, such as radiators, stoves and fireplaces. Excessive heat is, in fact, the enemy of painting, and can also cause progressive deformation of the wood that makes up the board and the supporting crossbars of the icon. At the same time, however, we must be careful to protect it from air pollution and dust, so we avoid placing it in a room with windows facing a busy street, if possible.

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