Aldo Peaucelle, genious art restorer

Aldo Peaucelle could have been a second-hand or antique dealer, but life decided otherwise. Two small landscapes, bought with the salary of his first summer job, sealed his fate. He has been a conservator-restorer of paintings for more than 25 years, based in Lyon. Individuals but also museums, experts, art dealers call on its know-how. My first visit was several years ago. Like it was yesterday. Time has little hold between these walls. A feeling of harmony, the threshold barely crossed. The same soft light bathes Aldo Peaucelle's studio . We work there in silence, with application, almost religiously. I plunge back with delight into this atmosphere. The paintings are hung in every corner, waiting patiently on easels, spread out on tables. Pious scenes, country landscapes, seascapes, portraits of notables or even enigmatic mythological scenes. For the outsider, it's a pleasant mess . These subjects do not speak, but many are the visitors who affirm to have felt "the good vibes" which they give off. In 25 years, many paintings have remained between these walls, sometimes for a long convalescence. One of the essential steps in the restoration of paintings is removing the layers of varnish which hide all the subtleties of the painting. "A blue sky turns green, even brown. The whites turn yellow or dark yellow", explains the restaurateur. A precocious passion It all started in the simplest way, like a fairy tale: once upon a time there was a curious little boy . "I fell for it very young and not because there were restaurateurs around me," explains Aldo Peaucelle. At 5 years old, he loved to browse in the attics of the family. Ali Baba's caves for the curious child. " These places were not allowed to me but every time I could sneak in, I was in heaven. The wardrobes were full of treasures," he says. His passion then focused on flea markets and old objects, sometimes broken, "my great-aunt's attic, times 10" , he quipped. "I remember a ceramic Madonna and Child, an old twisted Comtoise and a frame with pieces missing. " He could have been a second-hand dealer or an antique dealer, but his vocation was revealed with the purchase of two small landscapes, acquired with the money of his first summer job. "I spent my entire month's salary on these two paintings which, in addition, were torn!" A crush paid at a high price, to the sadness of his parents : 4000 francs at the time. "I went to see a restaurateur but it still took a month's salary to restore them. So I bought myself a book on restoration, a popularization book, and I started. I discovered restoration like that. I said to myself, it's absolutely brilliant, that's what I want to do for a living ". These two paintings, which conditioned the rest of his studies, he still has in his possession. It's visceral for me to fix something that's broken. I need to put things back to their original state. Aldo Peaucelle, restaurateur Since taking up this profession, Aldo Peaucelle thinks he has restored 5,000 works! He does not keep the exact count but he is inexhaustible. No desperate or lost causes Scales in shambles, gaps, coarse repaints, old and clumsy restorations, dirty subjects. Some paintings arrive in poor condition in the hands of Aldo Peaucelle and his three collaborators. Between puzzle and puzzle. But for these specialists in endangered masterpieces: nothing seems impossible. "This one, I can not do anything, it does not exist! We always find solutions," he says bluntly. It is all about hours of work, time and money. I would say it's the lost causes that excites me the most. But it's also exhilarating to rediscover the original colors of a painting, fresh complexions ... Aldo Peaucelle "We received at the workshop works which had soaked in water and which were in catastrophic conditions and at the end of the restoration, we no longer see the stigmata of these paintings at all, they are in perfect condition. Like when they were born, ” explains the restaurateur . Aldo Peaucelle admits a particular attachment for two paintings that escaped destruction thanks to his good care. Moses, twice saved from the waters! “It is superb even though it was in a catastrophic state when it was found. But today it is magnificent!” One of the paintings of which the restorer is particularly proud throne prominently in the Atelier is Moses's portrait. The bearded old man has recovered his splendor and his majesty. The venerable's face almost disappeared, lost forever after a stay in a flooded cellar. It was finally saved from the waters thanks to the intervention of the restorer. Its owners gave it to him as a gift. BEFORE - AFTER - The result is spectacular. The canvas had suffered heavy damage after staying in a flooded cellar. The miraculous web: saved but not restored There is also "the mystical marriage of Saint Catherine". The work is by the hand of Lubin Baugin, an artist of the 17th century known for his still lifes and his vanities. Saving this rare and little-known religious scene would be almost a miracle. When it reached his hands, the canvas had been rolled up. She had also slept for years in a barn. Forgotten or maybe hidden? "As you unrolled it, you could see the flakes of paint popping up. It was in a terrible state. Catastrophic! It was worse than the condition of Moses!" Aldo Paucelle does not have strong enough words. "With the owners, we quickly understood that the restoration would cost tens of thousands of euros,"he explains. But once the canvas is unrolled, it is impossible to go back. Lubin Baugin, the miraculous canvas which represents "The mystical marriage of Saint Catherine". • © DR - Aldo Peaucelle Preserving the Marriage of Saint Catherine was painstaking work, a game of patience. Undoubtedly a test for the nerves. Hundreds of hours spent replacing and reattaching all the paint chips in the right place - worthy of a puzzle, performing all the basic treatments. With a surprise when cleaning: "when I finished unbleaching the painting, I thought of Lubin Baugin's religious paintings," says Aldo Paucelle, who has had a special affection for this artist since he was in high school. Confirmation came from a French expert of this 17th century painter. As if chance or providence had placed this work in its path . "Today the painting is not restored but it is saved! It will not move!" Its degradation has been stopped, summarizes the restorer. But the missing parts have not been filled and the Saint with the delicate face will keep the traces of her eventful history. The owners gave him the painting. Aldo Peaucelle does not plan for a minute to sell him one day this painting which he considers to be his "figurehead". A fragile work ... Restoration, a scientific work The team works with microscopes, infrared and UV devices to carry out the diagnoses and develop the "treatments" to be applied to each patient. Thorough observation is the prerequisite. No room for fantasy or improvisation. It is scientific work which must not be irreversible. "You have to think about the restaurateurs who will come after us in 50 or 100 years." Every gesture counts, every decision involves possible future restorations. "Today we are in a very scientific approach, we explain everything we do, we do not hide anything. No magic in what we do, it's science," confirms the professional. But he admits, it's also a job in which you have to know how to recognize that you have limits, you have to question yourself, "find solutions with other people". Restoration, a work under the microscope - Atelier Aldo Peaucelle - December 2021 • © France tv - D. Mazzola Masters or works too impressive to dare to tackle them? The question amuses our restaurateur. He exclaims with a touch of humor and a touch of seriousness: "Sincerely, if next week I was offered to restore the Mona Lisa, I wouldn't say no! But I would measure my every gesture and each of my decisions!" " Seen FR3 - video

Aldo Peaucelle, genious art restorer

Aldo Peaucelle could have been a second-hand or antique dealer, but life decided otherwise. Two small landscapes, bought with the salary...