Art expert attacks restoration works

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the most respected scholars of Renaissance art has spoken out against the world-wide mania for restoring works of art - notably, the brighter-than-bright colours following the cleaning of the Michelangelo frescos in the Sistine Chapel, Rome, and what he describes as a 'much-damaged' Uccello in the National Gallery, London.

Charles Hope, a lecturer at the Warburg Institute, at the University of London, has attacked the mistakes made in the name of restoration. He argues that if there are lessons to be learnt 'from this unhappy episode . . . we ought to be prepared to tolerate darker pictures, and that in restoration, the wisest course is often the most conservative'.

He is the first important figure in the art world to speak out in this way. In doing so, he lends his support to James Beck and Michael Daley, who have been two lone voices, risking reputations and popularity to make the case against restoration. Dr Hope was swayed by the arguments and evidence set out in their book, Art Restoration: The Culture, The Business and The Scandal.

Dr Hope has bravely reversed his earlier, published opinions. In his review of the book for the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, he writes: 'Recalling with some shame my early support for the cleaning of the ceiling, I now find it difficult to believe that the right procedure was adopted . . . the frescos create a decidedly disagreeable impression: the colours are gaudy, so that the costumes tend to overwhelm the faces and limbs, the figures look crude and often flat, and the architecture seems insubstantial and pedantic'.

Dr Hope's comments have been warmly welcomed by Professor Beck and Mr Daley, who have long been frustrated by the historians who remained silent or those who defended the restorers' work as a revelation. Mr Daley said: 'We don't feel like loonies battling against the world any more.'

Art Restoration: The Culture, The Business and The Scandal; James Beck and Michael Daley; published by John Murray; pounds 17.99.