Category: Conservation

Refurbished Courtauld Galleries Reopen in November

June 14 2021

Image of Refurbished Courtauld Galleries Reopen in November

Picture: Courtauld Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News has arrived that the recently refurbished galleries of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London will be reopening to the public in November. This extensive four-year restoration project was made possible due to generous donations from the luxury conglomerate LVMH, the Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The newly refurbished rooms, including the 'Great Room' which housed the RA's exhibitions until 1837, sound very exciting indeed. There's even mention of a new room dedicated to paintings by Rubens, alongside other Courtauld favourites.

Nelly O'Brien Conserved

June 14 2021

Image of Nelly O'Brien Conserved

Picture: tefaf.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Wallace Collection's Miss Nelly O'Brien by Sir Joshua Reynolds has been conserved and redisplayed to the public. The project was funded by the TEFAF (The European Fine Art Foundation) Museum Restoration Fund, which the museum received in 2014 (?)

According to the TEFAF website:

The portrait is notable for its interplay of light and shadow, particularly in the upper part of the sitter’s body, where the wide brim of the bonnet casts a shadow over her face and bosom. However, the painting had been untouched for over 150 years and had several thick layers of discoloured varnish obscuring its beauty. The conservation of this painting, which was carried out in collaboration with the National Gallery, served two main purposes: to reveal the original luminous beauty of the work and to bring to light new information about Reynolds’s techniques and processes.

Another Painting Appears Underneath Portrait of Mexican Empress

May 28 2021

Image of Another Painting Appears Underneath Portrait of Mexican Empress

Picture: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article earlier this month relating to a discovery made by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in preparation for their revamped early American Art galleries. Indeed, x-rays revealed that hiding underneath two early nineteenth century portraits of the Emperor and Empress of Mexico were two earlier images of King and Queen of Spain, Charles IV and Maria Luisa of Parma. It seems that the artist Josephus Arias Huerta simply painted over to earlier pictures, a practise undertaken often by painters in the past.

The article captures the moment conservator Sarah Mastrangelo noticed an un-associated eye staring out of the Empress's dress:

Later, Sarah Mastrangelo would remember the eye, how it suddenly appeared, staring up at her from within the belly of the empress of Mexico. 

She gasped. 

“What is that?” she said out loud. 

A photographer standing next to her peered over to take a look. 

“It’s an eye,” he said. 

She looked again. What’s it doing there? Why is there an eye hidden beneath the empress’ heavy robes? “Have I been staring at this too long?” she wondered.

Scans of Frick Collection's Vermeer Reveals Alternative Background

May 28 2021

Image of Scans of Frick Collection's Vermeer Reveals Alternative Background

Picture: Frick Collection / MET

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

I hope readers will forgive me for missing this very interesting blog posted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection last year. It revolves around revelations made possible through detailed scans of the Frick Collection's Mistress and Maid by Johannes Vermeer. Images made through macro X-ray fluorescence have revealed that Vermeer had originally intended the scene to contain a more complicated background filled with figures and later a tapestry. For reasons unknown, Vermeer seems to have decided to paint them out completely.

Conservation of Hardwick Tapestries nearly Complete

May 27 2021

Image of Conservation of Hardwick Tapestries nearly Complete

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The conservation of Hardwick Hall's tapestries, a project which was started twenty years ago, is nearly complete. Twelve out of a set of thirteen wall hangings, which decorate the building's famous Long Gallery, have been treated. The set have hung in the space since 1592 and have required painstaking work to replace broken threads and include added strengthening to these delicate works of art. Work on the last panel is being completed with the help of a private donation worth £287,000.

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As beautiful as these tapestries are, the irony is that the hall's outstanding portrait collection is hung in front of them! There is no way of getting around that, I suppose.

Restoration reveals Silver Eyes of Cellini Bust

May 25 2021

Image of Restoration reveals Silver Eyes of Cellini Bust

Picture: ansa.it

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The National Museum of Bargello in Florence, Italy, have shared news that a recent campaign of restoration has revealed the original silver eyes of Benvenuto Cellini's bust of Cosimo I de' Medici. The silver foil, which was an original part of Cellini's work dating to 1545-48, had become obscured by centuries of grime and a dark coating which may have been applied to the sculpture in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The delicate process of removing the later layers was undertaken by conservator Ludovica Nicolai.

For those wanting to see the results of this interesting project, the newly restored bust will be heading to the MET's upcoming exhibition on Medici Portraits.

Restored Mattia Preti Fresco unveiled in Naples

May 20 2021

Image of Restored Mattia Preti Fresco unveiled in Naples

Picture: ansa.it

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A recently restored fresco by Mattia Preti (1613-1699) on the Porta San Gennaro in Naples has been revealed to the public. This latest campaign of restoration was begun in September 2019, by the company AReN, and continued throughout the pandemic. It was during the 1990s when the fragile wall painting was last conserved, a ritual that must be undertaken every few decades as this area of the city suffers greatly from pollution from fumes.

Traces of Gold uncovered on Donatello Sculpture

May 20 2021

Image of Traces of Gold uncovered on Donatello Sculpture

Picture: ansa.it

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Traces of gilding have been uncovered on a recently conserved marble statue of San Marco by Donatello kept by the Museum of Orsanmichele in Florence. The discovery was made during a recent conservation and scanning project, indicating that the hair, beard and robes of the figure were once a golden colour. The statue was completed in 1411 when Donatello was a mere twenty-five years old.

22-Meter Painting of Venice goes on Display

May 19 2021

Image of 22-Meter Painting of Venice goes on Display

Picture: corrieredelveneto.corriere.it

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A 22-meter painting of Venice has gone on display in the Querini Stampalia Foundation in Venice. The work, completed by Giovanni Biasin (1835-1912) in 1887, is believed to be one of the largest views of the view ever painted. The re-display has been made possible by a lengthy conservation project on this fragile work on paper. It will on display in the city until October 2021.

How to Fix a Flaking Gainsborough

May 18 2021

Image of How to Fix a Flaking Gainsborough

Picture: Holkham Hall

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Katherine Hardwick, collections coordinator at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, has penned a blog describing recent conservation work to Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Thomas William Coke ‘of Norfolk’. Alas, the portrait was found to be suffering from serious 'flaking' ten years ago. A campaign of restoration undertaken in 2011 had since failed to fix the problem. During the past months conservators from the Hamilton Kerr Institute have had another go at fixing the problem with special techniques using glue. The newly restored painting has been rehung in the South Dining Room and will be on display for visitors.

Brancacci Chapel given Green Light for Restoration

May 18 2021

Image of Brancacci Chapel given Green Light for Restoration

Picture: ansa.it

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News has emerged in Italy that the authorities in Florence have signed a three-year deal for the restoration of the significant frescos of the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The work, which will be carried out by the company Opificio delle Pietre Dure, will focus on stabilising the delicate frescos which have been seen to be deteriorating during an inspection made in 2020.

Fingers crossed that the eventual re-emergence of these significant works by Masaccio, Masolino and Filippino Lippi won't end up shocking us like this project recently undertaken in Rome.

Murillo's Madonna del latte Conserved

May 15 2021

Image of Murillo's Madonna del latte Conserved

Picture: barberinicorsini.org

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Palazzo Barberini and Corsini Gallery in Rome will be opening a new exhibition next week dedicated to the restoration of Murillo's Madonna del latte. A recent campaign of x-ray analysis and conservation has revealed several interesting elements regarding the artist's process, all which will be revealed in this small show.

The exhibition will run until 11th July 2021.

Vatican sends newly 'restored' Madonna delle Partorienti to Turin

May 13 2021

Image of Vatican sends newly 'restored' Madonna delle Partorienti to Turin

Picture: finestresullarte.info

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Vatican Museums have sent Antoniazzo Romano's highly revered Madonna delle Partorienti to a special exhibition in the Torino Musei Foundation. This fragment of fresco, produced during the late fifteenth century, was removed from the wall in 1574 during the construction of the new St Peter's. By 1605 the work was then reinstalled in a special grotto chapel located underneath the floor of the basilica.

The museum has also taken the opportunity to 'restore' the work especially for the exhibition. Here's an image of what it looked like previously:

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Does any reader happen to know if unfavourable comments relating to Vatican conservation work results in automatic excommunication?

Update - Here are some high-resolution images showing the new work a little more clearly.

Update 2 - Several readers have sent in correspondence explaining that criticism does in fact result in an automatic excommunication.

MET Acquires Ter Brugghen's Roman Charity

May 12 2021

Image of MET Acquires Ter Brugghen's Roman Charity

Picture: @adameaker

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's assistant curator for European Paintings Adam Eaker has shared news that the museum has acquired Hendrick ter Brugghen's Roman Charity. The work, signed and dated 1623, has recently been conserved by the museum and will go on display later this summer. It was acquired with the assistance of various funds including those from the late Jayne Wrightsman.

Duke of Buccleuch's Holbein Conserved for HRP Exhibition

May 10 2021

Image of Duke of Buccleuch's Holbein Conserved for HRP Exhibition

Picture: HRP

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Historic Royal Palace's upcoming Hampton Court exhibition Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King will be opening to the public on 20th May 2021. This delayed exhibition, which was originally planned for 2020 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, really does look like a treat for art and history lovers alike. The show will feature major loans from the Royal Collection and other various institutions and private collections.

In particular, the exhibition has allowed for the recent conservation and cleaning of the Duke of Buccleuch's portrait of Sir Nicholas Carew (c.1528) by Hans Holbein the Younger. This is an absolutely striking portrait, just as powerful as any armoured portrait you'll find in Italy during this period I'd say! Carew had jousted at the Field of the Cloth of Gold making the inclusion here very relevant.

Indeed, the work has long been described as the finest painting featuring early armour made from the Royal Workshops at Greenwich. These workshops were established in the exact same period when Holbein produced this image. The painting is a portrait of the armour as much as the man, details which I'm sure patrons like Carew and Henry would have adored and insisted on.

Update - We're just looking up what John Rowlands said about the work in his catalogue raisonne published in 1985, it seems that the attribution to Holbein may have been doubted in the past. More information soon.

Update 2 - A few readers have kindly been in touch with information that the painting was described as by 'Workshop or by an Associate of Holbein' in Susan Foister's Holbein and England (2005) book.

Update 3 - A reader has kindly shared the link to Holbein's preparatory drawing of Carew, kept in the Kunstmuseum, Basel.

Paintings Conserved in Earthquake Shocked Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio

May 10 2021

Image of Paintings Conserved in Earthquake Shocked Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio

Picture: finestresullarte.info

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A set of paintings have been conserved in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L'Aquila, Italy. This large medieval church, which contains the remains of Pope Celestine V (d. 1296), was damaged after a disastrous earthquake in 2009. The works included within the ongoing project include The Coronation of Celestine, The Renunciation of the Papacy, Death of Celestine and Mary receives gifts from the Jewish People, the later of which is by the Neapolitan artist Nicola Malinconico (1663-1721) (pictured). The restoration was made possible due to various emergency funds and a generous donation of €47,200.

Lecture: Mathematics and Art Conservation

May 6 2021

Image of Lecture: Mathematics and Art Conservation

Picture: ethz.ch

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has kindly informed me of this rather intriguing free online lecture being broadcast by St Cross College at the University of Oxford. Professor Ingrid Daubechies of Duke University will be giving The 7th Lorna Casselton Memorial Lecture on the subject of Mathematics and Art Conservation. Prof. Daubechies has previously been involved in using image-processing algorithms to digitally restore paintings and has also worked with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to create digital processes to identify forgeries.

The lecture will be broadcast on 13th May 2021 at 17.00 GMT. The lecture is free to attend but you'll have to register with the University of Oxford's online system first.

Sursock Palace Damage

May 4 2021

Image of Sursock Palace Damage

Picture: rte.ie

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Ireland's RTE have published an article on the damage inflicted on Beirut's Sursock Palace after last August's port explosion. The piece contains some rather melancholic photos, showing the true extent on the building and artworks. Also revealed is the even more shocking news that the owner of the Sursock Palace, Lady Yvonne Cochrane, 98, died from injuries sustained in the blast. Lady Cochrane's heirs are currently undertaking a six year restoration project which is expected to cost over €6.5m.

Early Wall Paintings Conserved in Coventry

May 4 2021

Image of Early Wall Paintings Conserved in Coventry

Picture: Historic Coventry

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A set of wall paintings have been conserved in the Charterhouse, Coventry. The set of three includes a large Crucifixion scene dating to c.1430, an early 17th century fictive imitation tapestry and a further large mural from the late 16th century.

Mark Perry, co-director of the The Perry Lithgow Partnership who undertook the work, is quoted as saying:

The earliest painting at Charterhouse depicts the Crucifixion in the centre with the Virgin Mary and St Anne on either side and several smaller figures in between. The main figures are very large and the painting would originally have covered the whole of the south wall of the monastery’s refectory. Due to extensive Post Reformation alterations to the building, only the bottom half now remains. This is the only surviving wall painting in a Carthusian monastery in England which means it is of national importance – it is one of the best pieces of Medieval art in the whole country.

Visitors will be able to see the newly restored works when the Charterhouse reopens in the Summer to celebrate Coventry's twelve months as UK City of Culture.

Teatro di San Carlo to Restore Giant Theatre Curtain

May 4 2021

Image of Teatro di San Carlo to Restore Giant Theatre Curtain

Picture: anfols.it

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples have announced their plans to conserve their enormous painted theatre curtain. The painting of Parnassus, which measures 12 metres high x 17 metres wide, was completed by artist Giuseppe Mancinelli (1818-1875) in 1854. Surprisingly, especially given the curtain's current appearance, the enormous painting had been treated as recently as 2011. The new campaign of restoration will be undertaken by the Italian company Ambra Restauri.

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