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Fine Art/protecting an old artwork


Hi. I have an original pencil or charcoal signed and dated 1923. I had bought this to Sothebys and they removed the backing to see the back of the artwork (It is framed and behind glass). They told me they didn't recognize the artist but it was definately worth holding onto. Now I noticed the paper the artwork is on is getting some spots on it I think it's because they broke the seal of the back paper? I can not afford to have it reframed professionally right now -is there anything I can do to protect it before it gets worse? I'm happy to send you photos if you would like to see it. Thanks so much.

Dear MaryAnn, What you have is called "foxing", rusty brown spots caused by micro-organisms forming on iron impurities in the paper. This was not caused by removal of the paper backing, as it generally takes many years to develope.
This can only be properly resolved by a paper conservator, who would also thymolize and deacidify the paper. It is not a very expensive procedure. Most art dealers or art museums can recommend a conservator.

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Daniel A. Hynes


Collecting, buying, selling, identifying, and caring for paintings, drawings,and watercolors (19th and early 20th century American and European). No prints, contemporary art, or works executed after 1940.


35 years as a fine art dealer, including 3 years as a gallery director. Also was art expert for Leslie Hindman's Auctioneers, and for Dunning's Auction.

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