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Fine Art Restoration/antique reverse glass painting


My grandmother was cleaning out her storage room, and she gave me a reverse glass painting which has apparently been in the family since her uncle bought it at the 1939 World's Fair.  It's a beautiful painting, and I want to keep it safe.  It is, however, not in the best condition.  She says a corner was broken once, which lead to the glass being cut and reframed.  The frame no longer has the original back.  Long story short, I am very worried that the paint is going to fleck off.  It has already flecked a little - and that's with it sitting safely in storage for years.  Is there anything I can spray on the back of the painting to protect it (before I find a better backing)?

Hi Melissa,

I've worked on several reverse painting on glass pieces, and I have to say that they're not DIY projects.  Spray coatings contain solvents that might actually soften, swell, or dissolve the paint, resulting in irreversible damage and loss.  A spray lacquer application may not penetrate properly, leading to further release from the glass.  The binder in the paint probably shrunk due to aging over the years.  The loss could also be physical damage from handling and reframing.

I strongly recommend that you find a professional conservator in your area with experience in this medium.  They will be able to assess the condition and recommend a treatment. There are successful treatments for glass painting that are available, and it's best for a conservator to determine that for your piece specifically.

You can go the website of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC# and access their Conservation Referral System at:
You search by specialty and geographic area.  

If a conservator is not a solution for you, then I would recommend taking it to a picture framer who is a member of the Professional Picture Framers Association #PPFA# and is a Certified Picture Framer #CPF#.  Request that the piece be framed for conservation.  I would recommend that piece of Melinex #Mylar) be placed as a protective barrier over the paint surface.

Good luck,
Paul Storch
Objects Conservator
St. Paul, MN

Fine Art Restoration

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Paul S. Storch


I'm happy to answer questions concerning the preservation and conservation of three-dimensional archaeological, ethnographic, historic, technological, and decorative arts objects. My materials expertise includes leather, wood, metals, and composite materials.


I have close to thirty years experience as a conservator at three different museums and in private practice. I currently work as a collections manager overseeing 40,000 historic objects at over 20 sites around the state, as well as having a private treatment and consultation practice in the Midwest.

American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Minnesota Association of Museums The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Professional Picture Framers Association

Journal of the American Institute For Conservation Texas Archaeology University of Texas Conservation Notes Caring for American Indian Objects/Minnesota Historical Society Press The Interpreter/Minnesota Historical Society Journal of Field Archaeology

B.A. in Anthropology/Archaeology; M.A. in Anthropology/Museum Studies with a concentration in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation.

Awards and Honors
Recognition certificate from the Institute of Museum Services

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