Inpainting variations at the Getty Villa

January 14, 2013

We were in Los Angeles and we visited the Getty Villa. And I found myself again alone with Roman wallpaintings. So moving, these fragments with little scenes. They look untouched – but on the contrary. These have been consolidated, stabilised, restored. One of the things that caught my eye, was the beautiful array of various solutions for inpainting, the reintegration of losses in the pictorial scenes..


Inpainting is done in the last stage of loss compensation. Strictly not necessary for the conservation of the fragments, but invaluable for the appreciation and understanding of the depicted scenes. Inpainting is generally carried out to make the picture aesthetically pleasant and readable again. And of course, according to conservation ethics, inpainting needs to be carried out in materials suitable for conservation and it needs to be visible from nearby. It should be clear what belongs to the original scene and what was added with the conservation and restoration process.


Here, in the right hand corner, the lines of the painted frame are connected, and the pattern is continued but faded out using more and more subtle lines. I bet you didn’t notice this at first?


Here is another beautiful little fragment. The losses were a bit bigger and the inpainting is a bit more visible, carried out in lighter and cooler tones than the original.



When we observe a detail in the bottom left corner, we can see that the inpainting is very skillfully executed: it completes the painting without mimicking or bettering the artistry of the original painter.

And here, in a fragment of an Etruscan wall painting, we see a third way of inpainting: the classic italian tratteggio technique. Here the pattern is continued using hatching. From a distance the eye connects the lines to a solid colour, from nearby the lines are visible and we know immediately what is restoration and what is original.


Of course, visitors are not supposed to see and think about all this….they just need to enjoy the little delights.