Home Interior Design Two Ukrainian restorers who fled war in kyiv have restored portraits at the Huguenot Museum of England, dedicated to a previous wave of refugees

Two Ukrainian restorers who fled war in kyiv have restored portraits at the Huguenot Museum of England, dedicated to a previous wave of refugees

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Two Ukrainian painting restorers who currently live in the UK as refugees have had the opportunity to practice their profession at the Huguenot Museum in Kent, England. Ahneta Shashkova and Valeriia Kravchenko both trained as restorers at the Academy of Art and Architecture in kyiv, but were forced to leave Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February 2022.

The couple have preserved 18th century portraits of silversmith John Jacob, himself a Huguenot refugee, and his wife Anne Courtauld, daughter of another Huguenot refugee silversmith. The paintings went on public display at the museum this week in commemoration of Refugee Week.

From August 2022, the couple worked under Ukrainian-born curator Katya Belaia, who has lived and worked in the UK for many years at her studio in Buckinghamshire. She set up a society of Ukrainian curators in 2014. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, she has arranged for 15 of her colleagues to flee the war-torn country and settle in England.

“The Huguenot Museum has provided an incredible opportunity for two Ukrainian refugees, professional painting restorers, to continue practicing their craft and finding dignity and meaning despite the appalling events currently unfolding in their home country,” Belaia said. in a press release.

Jacob’s portrait was on a very flimsy canvas with the paint starting to peel off. Both paints had become dull over the years due to dirt and old blackened varnish. In some cases, the original pigments used were very sensitive and required careful cleaning.

unknown artist, Anne Courtauld, Mrs. Jean Jacob (c.1787-93). Photo: © Huguenot Museum, Rochester.

“You could finally see all the details of the dress – the buttons, the lace, the quality of the fabric – as well as all the little artistic changes in the composition, which is extremely exciting,” Belaia said of the cleaning process. . “It’s like seeing the artist at work.”

The Huguenot Museum has a particular resonance for the history of refugees. In 1685, the King of France decreed that Protestants living in France would be banned from leaving and forced to convert to Roman Catholicism. Over 200,000 managed to escape and around 50,000 eventually settled in the UK, introducing the term ‘refugee’ to the English language.

The project took place with funding from the UK companies Idlewild Trust and Leche Trust, with further contributions from the Faith Project, Bishop Auckland and a descendant of John Jacob.

The museum also marks Refugee Week by exhibiting Our family quilt, a textile sewn in collaboration between Ukrainian women living there and their British host families. Each square of the quilt is named after a Ukrainian town where the refugees came from or where they currently live.

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