The Impact of Surface Cleaning Restoration of Paintings On Observers' Eye Fixation Patterns and Artworks' Pictorial Qualities

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Surface cleaning is a restoration process that involves the removal of dirt, grime, and discolored varnish from a damaged painting's surface film, thereby presumably enhancing the visual clarity of its pictorial features and aesthetic effects. However, whether surface restoration really has these desired effects is an open question addressed in the present research. We report results of 2 studies, the first of which examined participants' visual exploration (scanpath) using eye tracking of 10 prerestored paintings and their postrestored counterparts. Participants in both studies rated the paintings on items of the Information Rate Scale, a measure of a painting's physical, structural, and content characteristics. Eye-tracking results show that the mean values for duration of the first fixation, total viewing time, total number of fixations, and coverage were all significantly greater for the restored versus unrestored images. Heat maps depicting participants' combined data are compared for restoration effects. In the second study, significant differences were obtained between unrestored versus restored images for a number of Information Rate Scale items. These findings provide the first empirical evidence for the effects of restoration on the aesthetic experience of artworks.



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