Principles for the Preservation and Conservation-Restoration of Wall Paintings
paintings have been cultural expressions of human creation throughout
history, from the earliest
beginnings, such as rock art, extending up to present day murals.
Their deterioration, accidental or intentional destruction constitutes
a loss affecting a significant part of the world’s cultural heritage.
The Venice Charter (1964) has provided general principles for the
conservation-restoration of cultural heritage. The Amsterdam
Declaration (1975) introducing the concept of integrated conservation,
and the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) dealing with cultural
diversity, have expanded these principles. Taking into account these
and additional relevant contributions, such as the ICOM-CC Code of
Ethics (1984), Document of Pavia (1997), and E.C.C.O. Professional
Guidelines (1997), the aim of this document is to provide more
specific principles for the protection, preservation and the
conservation-restoration of wall paintings. This document, therefore,
reflects basic and universally applicable principles and practices,
and does not take into account particular problems of regions or
countries, which can be supplemented at regional and national level by
providing further recommendations where necessary.
richness of wall paintings
is founded on the variety of cultural expressions, aesthetic
achievements, and the diversity of materials and techniques used from
ancient until present times. The following articles refer to paintings
created on inorganic supports, such as plaster, brick, clay and stone,
and do not include paintings executed on organic supports, such as
wood, paper and canvas. Composite materials in many historic buildings
need special consideration outside the scope of this document.
Architectural surfaces and their finishing layers, with their
historical, aesthetic and technical values have to be considered as
equally important components of historic monuments.
paintings are an integral part of monuments and sites and should be
preserved in situ. Many of the problems affecting wall paintings are
linked to the poor condition of the building or structure, its
improper use, lack of maintenance, frequent repairs and alterations.
Also frequent restorations, unnecessary uncovering, and use of
inappropriate methods and materials can result in irreparable damage.
Substandard and inadequate practices and professional qualifications
have led to unfortunate results. It is for this reason that an
appropriate document covering the principles of proper conservation-restoration
of wall paintings is necessary.
Article 1: Protection Policy
necessary approach to the protection of wall paintings of every
culture and religion is to list and make inventories of monuments and
sites including wall paintings, even in cases when they are not
presently visible. Laws and regulations for the protection of cultural
heritage must prohibit the destruction, the degradation or alteration
of wall paintings, including their surroundings. Legislation should
not only provide for the protection of wall paintings, but also make
available resources for research, professional treatment and
monitoring, and provide for the appreciation of their tangible and
intangible values by society.
interventions are required, these should be carried out with the full
knowledge and the consent of the authorities responsible. Legal
sanctions should be provided for any violation of such regulations.
Legal provisions should also consider new discoveries and their
preservation pending formal protection.
Regional, urban or architectural development projects, such as
the construction of roads, dams, conversion of buildings, etc.
affecting wall paintings should not be carried out without an initial
impact assessment study and without providing appropriate remedies for
efforts must be made through the co-operation of various authorities
to accommodate and respect the cult function of religious paintings
without compromising their authenticity.
Article 2: Investigation
conservation projects should begin with substantial scholarly
investigations. The aim of such investigations is to find out as much
as possible about the fabric of the structure and its superimposed
layers with their historical, aesthetic and technical dimensions. This
should encompass all material and incorporeal values of the painting,
including historic alterations, additions and restorations. This calls
for an interdisciplinary approach.
methods of investigation should be as far as possible non-destructive.
Special consideration should be given to wall paintings that may be
hidden under whitewash, paint layers, plaster, etc. Prerequisites for
any conservation program are the scientific investigation of decay
mechanisms on macro and micro scale, the material analysis and the
diagnosis of the condition.
Article 3: Documentation
agreement with the Venice Charter, the conservation-restoration of
wall paintings must be accompanied by a precise program of
documentation in the form of an analytical and critical report,
illustrated with drawings, copies, photographs, mapping, etc. The
condition of the paintings, the technical and formal features
pertaining to the process of the creation and the history of the
object must be recorded. Furthermore, every stage of the conservation-restoration,
materials and methodology used should be documented. This report
should be placed in the archives of a public institution and made
available to the interested public. Copies of such documentation
should also be kept in situ, or in the possession of those responsible
for the monument. It is also recommended that the results of the work
should be published. This documentation should consider definable
units of area in terms of such investigations, diagnosis and treatment.
Traditional methods of written and graphic documentation can be
supplemented by digital methods. However, regardless of the technique,
the permanence of the records and the future availability of the
documentation is of utmost importance.
Article 4: Preventive Conservation, Maintenance and Site Management
aim of preventive conservation is to create favourable conditions
minimising decay, and to avoid unnecessary remedial treatments, thus
prolonging the lifespan of wall paintings. Appropriate monitoring and
the control of the environment are both essential components of
preventive conservation. Inappropriate climatic conditions and
moisture problems can cause deterioration and biological attacks.
Monitoring can detect initial processes of decay of the painting or
the supporting structure, thus preventing further damage. Deformation
and structural failure leading even to possible collapse of the
supporting structure, can be recognised at an early stage. Regular
maintenance of the building or the structure is the best guarantee for
the safeguard of the wall paintings.
or uncontrolled public uses of monuments and sites with wall paintings
can lead to their damage. This may necessitate the limitation of
visitors and, in certain cases, involve temporary closure to public
access. However, it is preferable that the public should have the
opportunity to experience and appreciate wall paintings as being part
of the common cultural heritage. It is, therefore, important to
incorporate into the site management
careful planning of access and use, preserving, as far as
possible, the authentic tangible and intangible values of the
monuments and sites.
to various sociological, ideological and economical reasons many wall
paintings, often situated in isolated locations, become the victims of
vandalism and theft. In these cases, the responsible authorities
should take special preventive measures.
Article 5: Conservation-Restoration Treatments
paintings are an integral part of the building or structure. Therefore,
their conservation should be considered together with the fabric of
the architectural entity and surroundings.
Any intervention in the monument must take into account the specific
characteristics of wall paintings and the terms of their preservation.
All interventions, such as consolidation, cleaning and reintegration,
should be kept at a necessary minimal level to avoid any reduction of
material and pictorial authenticity. Whenever possible, samples of
stratigraphic layers testifying to the history of the paintings should
be preserved, preferably in situ.
ageing is a testimony to the trace of time and should be respected.
Irreversible chemical and physical transformations are to be preserved
if their removal is harmful. Previous restorations, additions and over-painting
are part of the history of the wall painting. These should be regarded
as witnesses of past interpretations and evaluated critically.
methods and materials used in conservation and restoration of wall
paintings should take into account the possibility of future
treatments. The use of new materials and methods must be based on
comprehensive scientific data and positive results of testing in
laboratories as well as on sites. However, it must be kept in mind
that the long term effects of new materials and methods on wall
paintings are unknown and could be harmful. Therefore, the use of
traditional materials, if compatible with the components of the
painting and the surrounding structure, should be encouraged.
aim of restoration is to improve the legibility of form and content of
the wall painting, while respecting the original creation and its
history. Aesthetic reintegration contributes to minimising the
visibility of damage and should primarily be carried out on
non-original material. Retouching and reconstructions should be
carried out in a way that is discernable from the original. All
additions should be easily removable. Over-painting must be avoided.
of wall paintings requires the respect of the historic situation and
the evaluation of what might be lost. This operation should be
executed only after preliminary investigations of their condition,
extent and value, and when this is possible without incurring damage.
The newly uncovered paintings should not be exposed to unfavourable
some cases, reconstruction of decorative wall paintings or coloured
architectural surfaces can be a part of a conservation-restoration
program. This entails the conservation of the authentic fragments, and
may necessitate their complete or partial covering with protective
layers. A well-documented and professionally executed reconstruction
using traditional materials and techniques can bear witness to the
historic appearances of facades and interiors.
direction of conservation-restoration projects should be maintained at
all stages and have the approval of the relevant authorities. It would
be desirable that independent supervision of the project were insured
by competent authorities or institutions without commercial interest
in the outcome. Those responsible for management decisions must be
named, and the work must be implemented by professionals with
appropriate knowledge and skills.
Article 6: Emergency Measures
urgent cases, immediate emergency treatment is necessary for the
safeguard of wall paintings. Materials and techniques employed must
permit later treatment. Appropriate conservation measures must follow
as soon as possible with the permission of the relevant authorities.
and transfer are dangerous, drastic and irreversible operations that
severely affect the physical composition, material structure and
aesthetic characteristics of wall paintings. These operations are,
therefore, only justifiable in extreme cases when all options of in
situ treatment are not viable. Should such situations occur, decisions
involving detachment and transfer should always be taken by a team of
professionals, rather than by the individual who is carrying out the
conservation work. Detached paintings should be replaced in their
original location whenever possible.
measures should be taken for the protection and maintenance of
detached paintings, and for the prevention of their theft and
application of a covering layer concealing an existing decoration,
carried out with the intention of preventing damage or destruction by
exposure to an inhospitable environment, should be executed with
materials compatible with the wall painting, and in a way that will
permit future uncovering.
Article 7: Research and Public Information
establishment of research projects in the field of conservation-restoration
of wall paintings is an essential requisite of sustainable
preservation policy. Investigations based on research questions, which
have potential to add to the knowledge of degradation processes should
be encouraged. Research
that will expand our knowledge of the original painting techniques, as
well as materials and methods of past restoration practices are
essential in the implementation of appropriate conservation projects.
This research is also relevant to related disciplines of the arts and
sciences. The disturbance of significant fabric for study, or to
obtain samples, should be minimised.
of knowledge is an important feature of research, and should be done
on both the professional and popular levels. Public information can
substantially advance awareness of the need for preservation of wall
paintings, even if conservation-restoration work may cause temporary
Article 8: Professional Qualifications and Training
of wall paintings is a specialized discipline in the field of heritage
preservation. As this work requires specific knowledge, skills,
experience and responsibility, conservators-restorers of this kind of
cultural property should be professionally educated and trained, as
recommended by the Code of Ethics of the ICOM-Committee of
Conservation (1984) and by associations such as E.C.C.O. (European
Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations) and ENCoRE (European
Network for Conservation-Restoration Education).
Article 9: Traditions of Renewal
In many regions of the world, the authentic painting practices of artists and craftsmen are continued by repeating historic decorative and iconographic programs using traditional materials and techniques. These traditions, satisfying religio-cultural needs and keeping to the Nara principles, should be sustained. However, as important as it is to preserve this special knowledge, this does not imply that the conservation-restoration treatments of wall paintings are to be carried out by craftsmen or artists.
Article 10: International Co-operation
the care for common heritage is nationally and internationally an
accepted concept. It is therefore necessary to encourage the exchange
of knowledge and to disseminate information at every level. In the
spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration, conservators-restorers of
wall paintings need to liaise with their colleagues in other countries
and with relevant institutions and specialists around the world.
document, in its present form, was drafted in Copenhagen on October 28
– November 1, 2002. It was edited and completed in Thessaloniki on
May 8-9, 2003. Rapporteur:
Cama Villafranca (Mexico)
Crèvecoeur (The Netherlands)
de Silva (Sri Lanka)
Silva (Sri Lanka)