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Restoration of the Watercolours by Maximilian Voloshin

The State Hermitage’s Department of the History of Russian Culture possesses 20 watercolours by Maximilian Voloshin. They were painted in the resort town of Koktebel in the Crimea in the 1920s and ’30s and carry dedicatory inscriptions written in blue ink beneath the picture. Four of them were sent to the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Graphic Art as part of the preparation of items for inclusion in the exhibition “A Journey to the Crimea” (State Museum of the History of Saint Petersburg, Rumiantsev Mansion, Saint Petersburg; November 2016 – June 2017).

  • Maximilian Voloshin. Koktebel Bay on a Moonlit Night. 1920s
  • Maximilian Voloshin. Koktebel Bay in Winter. 1925
  • Maximilian Voloshin. Koktebel Bay during a Storm. 1930
  • Maximilian Voloshin. Landscape at Koktebel. 1920
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When they came in for restoration, the watercolours were mounted in frames beneath glass, with hardboard backs and artificial leather edging – both materials that are extremely harmful to paper. The pictures themselves were pasted onto low-quality dense cardboard. So, the paper support for the watercolours had been simultaneously subjected to the constant destructive influence of several materials, each with a very high level of acidity, and had become very fragile and brittle with time. Visually their unsatisfactory state of preservation expressed itself in pronounced overall yellowing of the paper, which fundamentally changed the colour scheme of the subtle, delicate translucent paintings.

One of the four watercolours after dismounting: removal of the back, glass and edging strips.

Layer-by-layer removal of the cardboard from the reverse side revealed inscriptions made with graphite pencil. To extract the yellowing and stains from the structure of the paper, it was given aqueous and non-aqueous chemical treatment, which optimized the pH level of the paper, reduced the overall discolouration to a considerable degree and made the paper more flexible. Those watercolours with the most badly damaged paper supports were relined with thin acid-free Japanese paper.

  • The dismounting process: removal of the strips of artificial leather glued around the edges of the glass.
  • The dismounting process: removal of the thick cardboard backing.
  • The process of separating the cardboard.
  • The process of thinning the cardboard layer using a bamboo knife on the restoration table under special lighting.
  • The process of thinning the cardboard layer using a bamboo knife on the restoration table under special lighting.
  • The aqueous treatment of the paper.
  • The aqueous treatment of the paper.
  • The process of preparing a watercolour for lining with Japanese paper.
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As a result of the restoration measures, the paper support of the works was stabilized, and the watercolours became fit for display.

  • After restoration
  • After restoration
  • After restoration
  • After restoration
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The restoration of the watercolours was carried out by two members of the staff of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Graphic Art – Marina Gambalevskaya and Yelizaveta Mzhagina.

The project was realized with the support of the Individual Members of the Hermitage Friends’ Club.