Fine art restoration – what to do when your painting is damaged

NatashaSadler - Colour - 20

Fine art restoration – what to do when your painting is damaged


Damage to works of art – accidental or otherwise – makes for a great news story. Readers with long memories may remember the unfortunate incident in 2006 when a visitor had a ‘Norman Wisdom moment’ at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge when he fell over his own shoelaces and knocked over three very large oriental vases. The force of the impact smashed the vases and created thousands of shards spread across a large area and dedicated staff spent many months restoring the vases back to a condition where they could be put back on display. 


More sinister was the 2012 instance in the Tate Modern gallery in London when a Rothko painting was deliberately vandalised by an art blogger who climbed over the rope barrier to scrawl graffiti on the painting. The thick black paint quickly soaked through the layers of the painting and removing and restoring the multi-million pound work of art took eighteen months and £200,000 of the gallery’s funds before it was back on the wall of the gallery.


These are extreme examples of damage to works of art in the public domain. But there are many thousands of artworks which are vulnerable to damage whilst kept in private houses. Air conditioning, heating, dust, grease, and tobacco smoke all take their toll whilst there is always the danger of accidents occurring as part of day-to-day life.  


Charles Anderson of the Fine Art Restoration Company recalls a recent incident when a client doing her housework accidentally tore through the surface of an eighteenth-century portrait with a vacuum cleaner. ‘The painting meant a lot to the owner and was examined by an insurance adjuster before being handed over to us as quickly as possible,’ he recalls. ‘The canvas was relined, and by the time we had completed the project there was no indication to the naked eye that the painting had been damaged.  


Restoration costs are often less than you might expect: in this case the original valuation of the portrait in 2015 was £7,500.00, and the expert repair work cost £1,680.00. Furthermore, restoration than replacement is good news for the owners of works of art as it may help keep the costs of their future insurance premiums down in future.


Natasha Sadler, insurance executive at Scrutton Bland explains ‘A fine-arts insurance policy generally will cover the entire cost of restoration and, if there is, for example, a 25% loss of value because of the damage, the insurer could pay the policyholder up to 25% of the insured value. 


Your fine art insurance can be arranged as a separate policy or combined with your main home and contents policy. We have extensive experience in choosing the most appropriate cover for your contents, and will aim to find the right cover to suit your personal circumstances, from one painting to private collections.’


For an initial consultation, in complete confidence, contact Natasha Sadler at or tel 01206 838443


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About Oliver Mizen 333 Articles
Oliver is web editor, social media poster, search engine optimiser.