The icon-restoration studio of St. Elisabeth Convent was established in 2009. Since then, lay and monastic brothers and sisters, many of whom are professional painters and art experts, have restored hundreds of icons of different types.
The process of icon restoration starts with research about the icon. It is essential to know the history of iconography in order to determine the time of the icon’s creation and the iconographic school, trace its fate and decide on the best approach to restoration. There are three stages in the restoration of an old icon: Repair of the icon base, with the assistance of a carpenter; strengthening of the pigment layer; polishing of the surface layer; uncovering of the painted image (by cleaning the surface layer); filling the gaps in the painted image. In most cases, the process is completed with the application of a protective lacquered layer and the placing of the icon in a casing.
For some icons, the restoration process may take up to six months of meticulous work. In the beginning, the artist restores the integrity of the wooden base of the icon. Wood is a dynamic material that is highly responsive to changes in temperature, lighting and humidity, and should be handled with great care.
The next step is the restoration of the paint base or the canvas. Where the damage to the canvas is extensive, the glueing together of the material is a slow process done millimetre after millimetre using a pair of tweezers. The next step - restoring the gesso takes place layer after layer, giving each layer enough time to dry.
Uncovering the painted image is considered among the icon restoration experts to be the most challenging and risky stage. It takes a lot of talent to successfully remove the deposits that have built up over time while leaving the painting intact. Success depends as much on the use of the right chemicals as on the meticulousness and patience of the artist.
Finally, at the stage of filling the gaps in the painting, the artist must use his intuition to read into the approach and mindset of the icon’s author to achieve maximum authenticity. The workshop’s artists work on every icon individually. There is no standard approach, say the artists, as the process is full of unexpected difficulties and challenges.
The icon restoration workshop works with church, name, wedding, family and dimensional icons on bases of wood, paper, metal and canvas.
It is also possible to commission icon frames of foil or their doubles from a different material. We accept orders for icon cases, restoration and cleaning of icon frames, icon frame gilding and restoration of old paintings.
On completion of the order, clients will be provided with the photos of the icon before and after restoration, and a full description of the techniques used. Customers will also be advised on the best ways to care for the icon after restoration.