Madonna and Child with Riza
private collection, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
RELIGIOUS ART, ICON RESTORATION, CONSERVATION
AND SOME RECENT EXAMPLES
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.
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.
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.
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.
A LONG HISTORY OF PRESERVING RELIGIOUS ART
Oliver Brothers has a long history of preserving religious art, icon restoration, conservation for private clients, churches, museums and institutions. 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).
Art restoration of the frescoes at the Kariye Camii Istanbul, Turkey
Carroll Wales and Constantine Tsaousis, Ayasofya Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
Hilandar Monastery, Constantine Tsaousis- Oliver Brothers, Mount Athos, Greece
Russian Icon- The Icon was restored and protected Private Collection, New York City, N.Y.
“The icon has been in my husband’s Russian family since the 19th century. My husband’s grandmother, Evgenija Esenin, a first cousin of Sergei Esenin, brought it to Serbia, as part of her dowry. The restoration is magnificent, as is the frame Mira picked for it. It is gorgeous, absolutely!!! My husband said he could not have picked out a better frame and the workmanship is beautiful, fully restoring it to its former glory. Thank you so much.”
Dear Ms. Bishop,
Recently Oliver Brothers restored a number of precious icons which were damaged when our chapel in West Newbury caught fire. These icons have long been in our possession and they are very precious to us both as objects of devotion and for their inherent artistic value.
On behalf of the brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist I want to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff and, in particular Mr. Peter Tysver, for the exquisite work he performed in lovingly restoring our icons. It was a joy to all of us to see the icons not only cleaned of smoke damage but brought back to a state of renewal that made it possible for us to see colors and details that we had never been able to see before.
Very truly yours,
Robert L’Espérance, SSJE
MORE RELIGIOUS ART RESTORATION EXAMPLES
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.
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.
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, Cambridge, MA
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.
Russian Icon and Riza, 19th century, private collection Cambridge, MA
The Riza alone and under the Riza only
St. Nicolas, Greek Orthodox Icon- cleaning example
Before and After
Russian Icon, 17th Century, private collection, Boston, MA
Antique Greek Icon, restored and protected with Museum Glass Private collection, Cambridge, MA
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