Religious Art & Icon Restoration/Conservation


Oliver Brothers has a long history of restoring and preserving iconic religious art. Some of the most notable projects include: restoration of the frescoes at the Kariye Camii in Istanbul (Turkey), restoration of the mosaics and frescos in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), conservation of Roman mosaic “The Antioch Mosaic ” at Worcester Art Museum, and restoration of mosaics and frescoes in St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai (Egypt).


Religious Icon Art Restoration, Istanbul Turkey

Art restoration of the frescoes at the Kariye Camii in Istanbul, Turkey.

Over the years Oliver Brothers has restored Russian, Greek, Coptic, and Serbian icons, including the important collection of Ambassador Joseph Davis at the Museum of the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Antique Greek Icon During Restoration       Antique Greek Icon After Restoration

17th Century Greek icon  from Crete, private collection, Connecticut, USA; subsequently donated to Saint Catherine’s College, Cambridge University, England.

Like many old icons, this 17th Century example from Crete had layers of candle soot that obscured the colors. The ermine stole clearly shows the degree of discoloration. The damage to the left of the head may have been caused by a candle that was too close. This icon is signed and dated, which is unusual.


Sveti Luka Icon Before Restoration    Sveti Luka Icon After Restoration

     St. Luke, Serbian, 19th Century, private collection, Lynn, MA

 This baroque icon from Sarajevo ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) is painted on canvas. When it came to us it had been removed from the stretcher. In addition, there were numerous paint losses, folds and buckling of the canvas. The painting was covered with a heavy coating of dirt, grime, and yellowed varnish. The complete restoration also included ordering a new custom-made stretcher bar and the frame.

Russian Icon Before Restoration    Russian Icon After Restoration

Before and After
Russian Icon, 17th Century, private collection, Boston, MA

In addition to the discolored surface, the wood panel had a vertical split on the right side from top to bottom. The split panel was rejoined, filled, and in-painted and the discolored coating removed. The improvement is most dramatic in the scroll. Note, also, how much more luminous the gold is.

Religious Art Conservation Sample 6

The Riza alone and under the Riza only

Religious Art Conservation Sample 7

Russian Icon and Riza, 19th century, private collection Cambridge, MA

A riza is a decorative metal covering over the face of an icon. Holes are cut into the riza, frequently displaying only the faces and hands of the subject. Sometimes the original icon has been removed, to be displayed separately. Then, only the parts that show in the Risa are replaced. In this restoration, both the painted areas and the riza were cleaned. The riza was carefully cleaned, leaving some of the tarnish on the silver.

Sveti Nikola Icon Restoration

St. Nicolas, Serbian baroque icon, late 19th Century, private collection, Marblehead, MA.

This icon was painted at St. Nahum Monastery (Sveti Naum), Ohrid, Macedonia – UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage site. The icon had no varnish and, fortunately, only a small area of gold leaf was missing. Due to its age it had certain amount of craquelure in the paint film. Our treatment included re – lining and varnishing this beautiful Serbian Icon.

Antique Greek Orthodox Icon, cleaning example
St. Nicolas, Greek Orthodox Icon- cleaning example

 Antique Greek Icon, restored and protected with Museum Glass
Private collection, Cambridge, MA

Russian Icon Restoration Example

 Russian icon, private collection,
Cambridge MA

The silver background of this icon was originally silver. A gold-colored tone of shellac was often applied over the silver leaf to achieve the look of gold at a reduced cost. During a prior conservation, the icon was cleaned and the gold wash was removed. As an option, a new gold wash could be applied by a skilled restorer to return the icon to a condition closer to the original.

Madonna and Child Icon Restoration

Virgin and Child, 19th Century, Italian style

This icon is painted on a traditional wooden panel. The painting was covered with a heavy coating of dirt, grime, and yellowed varnish. The icon was also carefully in – painted and the gilded areas were carefully preserved.

Crkva Svetog Save Icon Restoration

Insect and Transport Damage Icon Repair Example

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, Cambridge, MA
photo credit: George Bilak,

St. Sava Church commissioned a very talented artist, George Bilak, to create an iconostasis for the church. The iconostasis is 35-feet wide and slightly over 17-feet tall at its highest point (top of the central cross) and took 3 years to complete. The icons and wood carvings were shipped all the way from Serbia. During installation, a small area of paint loss was noticed on two icons. Oliver Brothers was called in to identify what happened and to treat some small damaged areas. After careful observation and testing, we discovered insect infestation, most likely caused by higher levels of humidity during transport from Europe. A proper treatment was applied and the icons are now free of insects.

Romanian Church Icon Restoration

 St. John the Baptist, Romanian Orthodox Church,
Woonsocket, R.I.

All of the icons were cleaned of dirt and grime. The losses were consolidated where necessary and in-painted. The icons were then varnished with acrylic varnish.  Due to the immobility of the iconostasis, the artwork was restored on-site.

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