Heritage Restoration – 5 Basic Intervention Principles


What is meant by Heritage Restoration and what are the basic principles of any intervention?

The aim of this article is to answer this question succinctly using internationally accepted concepts.

What is Heritage Restoration ?

According to the definition given by ICOM – International Council of Museums, heritage restoration means.

Actions on the object that aim to re-establish its aesthetic value by restoring its readability and comprehensibility.

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These actions only take place when the object has lost part of its meaning or function through alteration or deterioration.

Examples include:

  • chromatic reintegration of paintings.
  • assemblage of a sculpture with gaps.
  • reintegration of volumetric gaps.

Develop this aspect in the article What is restoration and conservation?

Evaluation of the need for intervention

Heritage Restoration interventions therefore need to be carefully considered in order to determine whether they are really necessary, while respecting the original work.

Any intervention must therefore comply with 5 key principles.

5 Principles of intervention in heritage restoration

These 5 principles of intervention in Heritage Restoration consist of

1 – Compatibility with original materials

Compatibility with the original materials, not producing physical or aesthetic damage to them.

Careful choice of all materials and products to be used during all phases of intervention in order to guarantee this principle.

2 – Respect for the original

Respect for the original, one cannot falsify, hide, or invent parts or areas that do not exist that distort the initial reading of the work and that was idealized by the artist.

In Heritage Restoration irreversible treatments should always be avoided.

3 – Minumum intervention

Principle of minimal intervention, carrying out only the minimum necessary, avoiding causing physical stress to the work and ensuring that the historical and constituent information of the piece is maintained.

oil painting restoration - cleaning

All heritage restoration operations will be based on this principle and volumetric and chromatic reintegrations will be carried out when there is a clear reference and when the aesthetic reading of the work is at stake, which will be decided in collaboration with the owner.

4 – Reversibility

Reversibility of the intervention (materials and techniques), without damaging the original.

The principle of reversibility will be respected through the use of materials and techniques that are not only compatible with the originals present but also reversible, i.e. whose removability is guaranteed without causing damage to the pre-existing.

5  – Recognition

Recognition of the intervention, distinguishing it from the original without causing disturbances to the reading and longevity of the work.

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All heritage restoration intervention works and their methods will have as their principle the aesthetic reading of the work as a whole but will have as a basis of choice its visual recognition as an intervention.

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