Removing Soot From the Surface of oil Paintings

Author: Joanna Sitnik
entor: Assistant Professor Alexander Hola, PhD

Academy of Fine Arts, Cracow (Poland)
Study programme: Conservation of Paintings
Specialization: Paintings (5th year of study)


Sitnik JThe presentation is about the research carried out by the author at the University of Antwerp during her Erasmus exchange period. The project included a research into the nature of soot, how it affects the paint layer and how it can be removed from the surface of oil paintings using solvents.
Fire damages to paintings are a very complicated and complex problem. Fire is always the cause of many interconnected damages, which complicate conservation. At extremely high temperatures, the paint layer undergoes a temperature shock, which results in significant ageing and worsening of the paint layer’s condition. The author tried to answer the following questions: Is it possible to remove soot from the surface using traditional conservation methods? Is it possible to restore the original appearance of a painting? The author also tried to find out whether soot could be removed without damage to paint layer.
The nature of the soot was studied by visual observation and by analysing the photos taken through a microscope. Solvent tests were performed on three paintings: two on canvas and one on plywood. The solvents were chosen according to their strength and polarity. The performance of the solvents was checked visually and by taking photos through a microscope.

Short biography

JOANNA SITNIK was born in 1992, in Lublin, Poland. Since 2010 she has been studying conservation and restoration of works of art at the Academy of Fine Arts In Cracow. She spent one semester at the Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of the University of Antwerp, Belgium, through the Erasmus Student Exchange Program. She specializes in easel and mural painting conservation. She has taken classes in the protection and conservation of photographs for two years. Her hobby is photography.