Published: February 16, 2016
HELVOIRT, THE NETHERLANDS — The Executive Committee of The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) has awarded a grant to two important but quite different restoration projects: the reconstruction of “The Tower of Nanjing” from the de Robien collection at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes and the restoration of “The Girl in the Muslin Dress — Symphony in White” by James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) at The Singer Memorial Foundation, Laren, The Netherlands.
The fund was set up by TEFAF Maastricht in 2012 to provide up to 50,000 euros annually to help institutions around the world restore and conserve works of art in their collections. Museums and institutions that have attended TEFAF Maastricht are eligible to apply for the grants, which are awarded by an independent panel of experts. Both of this year’s projects are technically complex and demanding.
“The Tower of Nanjing” project focuses on a Chinese tower from Guangzhou that was designed for the European market in the late Seventeenth Century. It entered the collection of the Marquis de Robien around 1740 and was transferred to the museum at the time of the Revolutionary seizures of 1794. The 3-foot-tall tower is made up of a wooden structure consisting of eight main blocks of decreasing size, hundreds of meticulously engraved and carved mother of pearl fragments and painted glass plates, which is currently in pieces.
It was believed that all the Nanjing Towers that incorporated mother of pearl had disappeared, making the restoration of this piece particularly difficult. A sister-piece of the de Robien cabinet tower has been discovered in Burghley House, England, however, and will be instrumental to its restoration.
Whistler’s “The Girl in the Muslin Dress — Symphony in White,” circa 1870, was acquired by Anna Singer around 1949. Approximately 30 years ago the authenticity of the work was called into question by Whistler expert Dr Margaret McDonald. It had not been on display since then. Recent research conclusively demonstrates that the work is by Whistler and now a delicate restoration project is being undertaken to return it to its original state.
The latter project requires detailed art historical knowledge as the overall condition of the painting makes it difficult to distinguish the original artistic intention from damage created by previous restoration treatments. To maintain the painting’s integrity, a clear distinction between intentional and nonintentional abrasion needs to be created before any retouching is undertaken. Following the restoration of this work, the painting will be on permanent display for two years as part of the Singer Highlights exhibition. The only other painting by Whistler in the Netherlands is held in the Rijksmuseum collection.
The fund was created out of the desire to make a lasting contribution to the large number of international museums and institutions whose representatives regularly visit the fair, which this year takes place March 11–20.
For additional information, www.tefaf.com.
TEFAF Maastricht Offers Supports
To Drik Picture Library Project
HELVOIRT, THE NETHERLANDS — The European Fine Art Foundation, which runs TEFAF Maastricht fair, and the Prince Claus Fund are providing financial support to the DRIK Picture Library in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to preserve a significant portion of a collection of negatives belonging to one of Bangladesh’s most important photographers, Rashid Talukder.
During the 1971 Liberation War, Talukder produced numerous iconic photos that stand as testament to the social and political scenario of Bangladesh during that turbulent period. All his negatives were stored, unarchived, in a steel trunk, wrapped in cloth and buried underground: this collection is now in a state of decay. The photographic works are unseen as the negatives and slides have not been printed and digitally converted.
There are 155,568 negatives in total, some of which have already been lost through poor storage. The project supported by TEFAF and the Prince Claus Fund will preserve the most fragile 18,000 negatives to provide one of the very few records of the Liberation War. In addition, the project is intended to construct a virtual memoir of one of the most important Bangladeshi photojournalists from that era.
For additional information, www.tefaf.com.
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