Art: The Fashion for Flaying

The delicate art of cleaning and restoring fading masterpieces was once the province of cautious artisans armed with little more than a magnifying glass, a loaf of fresh bread (without the crust) for gently erasing dirt, and perhaps some soapy water and varnish. Now a new breed of "scientific" restorers, equipped with a surgeon's tools, a chemist's swabs, and a burning curiosity about what lies under the next layer of paint, has moved into most of the world's great museums. At best, their efforts have resulted in such spectacular triumphs as the restoration of Leonardo's Last Supper (TIME, Oct. 4, 1954)....

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