This Guy Makes 700-Year-Old Paintings Look New in a Matter of Minutes

In the Photoshop age, it's easy to think that a few simple mouse clicks is all it takes to completely edit or fix an image. But when you're dealing with precious pieces of art that are worth millions of dollars and hang on museum and gallery walls, making them look like new again without botching the job requires a highly trained hand.

As you might imagine, fine art restoration is an incredibly tricky business fraught with risk, since one screw-up can ruin the whole piece. However, it's also a mesmerizing thing to see a pro pull off up-close, as you'll understand after watching this captivating clip (shown above) which documents the whole process from start to finish in just a few minutes. 

The clip showcases the expert skills of Julian Baumgartner, a second-generation art restorer in Chicago who regularly works on paintings that are upwards of 700 years-old. In it, you can see him meticulously tend to every little detail to bring it back to vibrant life. Specifically, his work on an exceptionally old portrait of the Virgin Mary involves removing the canvas from its frame, and then re-mounting it with fresh nails. Then he uses special chemicals to delicately remove the dirt and varnish that have accumulated atop it over hundreds of years, before tending to tears and areas that need to be entirely repainted. 

From there, he mixes oil paints to exactly match the sections that need a touch-up (or have to be completely repainted), and finishes the whole thing with a varnish. Amazingly, in the end, it looks completely untouched. 

The clip itself is a bit over six minutes long and drags in a few parts, but it's well worth a watch. 


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.