Preservative – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

What is a Preservative?

A preservative is a substance that is added to a product to prevent deterioration or spoilage. In the context of art conservation, preservatives are used to protect artworks from damage caused by environmental factors such as light, humidity, and pollutants.

Preservatives can come in various forms, including liquids, gels, and sprays. They are typically applied to the surface of the artwork or incorporated into the materials used in the restoration process.

Types of Preservatives Used in Art Conservation

There are several types of preservatives commonly used in art conservation. These include fungicides, insecticides, antioxidants, and UV inhibitors. Fungicides are used to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on artworks, while insecticides are used to deter pests that may damage the artwork.

Antioxidants are used to prevent oxidation, which can cause discoloration and deterioration of the artwork. UV inhibitors are used to protect artworks from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light.

Purpose of Using Preservatives in Art Restoration

The primary purpose of using preservatives in art restoration is to protect artworks from deterioration and damage. By applying preservatives, conservators can extend the lifespan of the artwork and preserve its original appearance.

Preservatives also help to maintain the structural integrity of the artwork by preventing the growth of mold, the infestation of pests, and the effects of environmental factors such as light and humidity.

Application of Preservatives in Art Conservation

Preservatives are typically applied during the cleaning and restoration process of artworks. Conservators carefully assess the condition of the artwork and determine the appropriate preservatives to use based on the materials and techniques used in the artwork.

Preservatives are applied using specialized tools and techniques to ensure even coverage and maximum protection. Conservators may also apply multiple layers of preservatives to ensure thorough protection.

Potential Risks and Considerations When Using Preservatives

While preservatives are essential for protecting artworks, there are potential risks and considerations to keep in mind when using them in art restoration. Some preservatives may interact negatively with certain materials used in the artwork, leading to discoloration or deterioration.

Conservators must carefully research and test preservatives before applying them to ensure compatibility with the artwork. Additionally, some preservatives may be toxic or harmful to human health, requiring proper safety precautions during application.

Examples of Preservatives Used in Art Restoration

Some common examples of preservatives used in art restoration include Paraloid B-72, a synthetic resin that is commonly used to consolidate and protect fragile surfaces. Another example is Renaissance Wax, a microcrystalline wax that is used to protect metal, wood, and stone surfaces.

Other examples of preservatives used in art restoration include Klucel G, a cellulose ether that is used to consolidate and protect paper and textiles, and Damar varnish, a natural resin that is used to protect and enhance the appearance of paintings.