The microscopic view of soot deposits on a fire damaged painting shows areas of potential damage not visible to the naked eye. Where prolonged heat exposure has caused a bubbling of the paint layer, there is a risk of secondary damage during cleaning. With certain pieces, a conservator might spend as much time planning and preparing for a treatment as they do performing the actual treatment.
The results of a test cleaning are visible on this painting being evaluated. Great care is taken to remove soot, debris, and deposits without removing pigment. In cases where a damaged varnish layer must be removed, evaluation helps conservators to ensure they are only removing the varnish layer and not solubilizing or affecting the paint layers below. One way to evaluate this is by looking closely…very closely!