Published: December 3, 2002
“Beyond the Visible: A Conservator’s Perspective,” an exhibition devoted to art conservation organized by museum conservator Norman Muller, will be on view at the Princeton University Art through January 5, 2003.
The exhibition will focus on the techniques and materials of nine Old Master paintings in the museum’s collection. It will present documentary material and technical photographs that describe the examination process of each work preceding actual conservation treatment.
In one example, an infrared reflectogram digital composite of the “Madonna and Child with Saints” by the Sixteenth Century Sienese artist Girolamo Genga shows an underdrawing of tiny black dots-the traces from a cartoon used to transfer the design from the sheet of paper to the white-grounded panel.
In another painting the artist’s technique is illustrated in an enlarged color photograph of a cross-section of the double-ground layer.
For a very damaged “Madonna and Child” by the Fifteenth Century Sienese artist Andrea di Bartolo, the original colors are reproduced in a color photograph based on a technical examination of tiny pigment samples.
Two of the paintings on view have never before been exhibited due to their fragile condition.
The di Bartolo “Madonna and Child” altarpiece is also the subject of a special project on the museum’s web site entitled “Recapturing the Image,” launched this fall in conjunction with the exhibition “Beyond the Visible: A Conservator’s Perspective.”
Through a series of interactive experiences, the site leads visitors through the construction of a Fifteenth-Century altarpiece: from the carpenter’s preparation of the wood support and the painter’s application of the pigments and gold and silver leaf, to the joining of the panels.
As part of the painting’s recent conservation, Bruce Hardin Suffield, assistant conservator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, created a digital reconstruction of the panel as it might have looked in its original state. The web project will walk viewers through his examination process, including the methods he used to determine the original pigments.
Conservator Norman Muller’s insights into changes in Italian altarpiece construction will be explored through X-rays and photographs taken under raking illumination. While the panel will not always be on view, this site will serve as a permanent resource for students, scholars, and the museum’s general audience. The project is designed by Janet Strohl-Morgan, the museum’s technical computer support specialist.
The museum is located in the middle of the Princeton University campus, next to Prospect House and Gardens. Due to construction, visitors should use the entrance on the west side of the building, across the green from Dod Hall. For information, 609-258-3788 or www.princetonartmuseum.org.
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