It takes a special kind of person to make it your life’s work to restore the artworks of others. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Michael Gallagher has done just that. He and his staff spent 10 months restoring this 1660 painting by Charles Le Brun’s of Everhard Jabach and His Family.
Gallagher, looking like he might have stepped out of an antique painting himself, explains the tedious, meticulous process of restoring a masterpiece. You must have to have a lot of love and reverence for art to devote your life to such painstaking work.
The process in a nutshell is this: first, while upright, the painting’s varnish is removed. Then, the painting is turned over and removed from its stretchers. The canvas structure is repaired, using moisture, pressure, and heat. Once the structural intervention is complete, the work is turned over and restretched. Once mounted, the painting receives its first layer of new varnish. This is when the paint is lovingly restored in a process called inpainting. Once the paint has been repaired, the work gets a final coat of spray varnish.