Gender fluid ante litteram
A painting by the genius Leonardo da Vinci unexpectedly provides us with an interesting reflection on the notion of “gender identity“, never as much debated as in recent times. What distinguishes and separates being a woman from being a man? Where is the borderline?
We premise that the panel with the Head of Christ now in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan is not unanimously accepted as by Leonardo’s hand, despite the undoubted quality of the painting, the presence of a textbook “sfumato” and the convincing comparison of scientific data (to which Art -Test contributed).
However, we are absolutely convinced of this attribution, enraptured by the power of this image and also a by what we are about to tell you.
We carried out the IR reflectography of this panel, to discover the preparatory drawing, and we realized with immense amazement that the preparatory drawing for this image of Christ, depicts a woman.
The face in reflectography has no beard; the hair is less thick, in line with what were the beauty canons of the time, even if in an official portrait a woman would probably have demanded her hair gathered. But Leonardo had already produced the Scapigliata.
The shoulders are small and round, like those considered desirable by the canons of beauty of the time.
But above all, the folds of her dress widen for the unmistakable presence of a female breast.
The multilayer images show how the artist had modified these characteristics with a few brush strokes to change the folds of the garment, and make them become vertical, to raise the shoulder line and to add beard and lengthen the hair.
A few touches, no changes to the very intense gaze, and a woman becomes a man. The symbols of the trinity are added and here is the head of a Christ. Who is born a woman, metaphorically.
A very strong message, a secret that had to remain so until the analyses literally brought it back to light.
Who if not Leonardo could dare so much?
PS. If you want to see more, reflectographic images have been published in Leonardo in France (SKIRA), and in “Leonardo Da Vinci and Gian Giacomo Caprotti Called Salai’ : The Enigma of a Painting”, by Maurizio Zecchini, ed. Marsilio
Leonardo Masotti, university professor, pioneer of electronics (or electrical engineering “of weak currents”, as it was still called when he graduated), has left us. He was a very important figure for the Florentine and Italian industry, a true innovator who was able to give impetus to many now well-established realities, in the world of industrial lasers as well as in the medical sector.
Perhaps not everyone knows that he was a great supporter of the application of technology to the study of art, too, to the point of accepting the position of President of the Regional Technological District for Cultural Heritage. It is thanks to his vision that, for example, we have many lasers for restoration.
But above all it was the professor who had remained a constant point of reference through the years.
His genuinely kind manners and curiosity for each new idea will remain to guide us in the future as well.
Susanna Bracci, principal scientist of the Institute for the Conservation and Valorization of Cultural Heritage of the Italian National Research Council was a pillar of our sector.
Her contribution to science for conservation has been important and continuous, her presence has been a point of reference for more than thirty years.
She was open minded and curious, always smiling and positive.
Despite the fact that she had been struggling for some time with a terrible disease, she seemed invincible.
But she left, leaving a professional and human void that will be impossible to fill. We will never forget you.
With Love Your friends
Vi state chiedendo quali analisi da richiedere? Ecco una guida
When you come across an artwork, perhaps in the attic or in grandparents’ cellar, you may wonder “Will it be original or is it a copy?” and above all, “Can it be worth anything?” and it is precisely to answer these questions that Art-Test decided to create the specific “Standard” test package.
It is especially recommended for artefacts for which previous scientific documentation is completely absent, and it gives concrete initial answers to the above questions and allows to reveal possible recent fakes.
In the specific case of a painting, for example, the package includes four different non-invasive diagnostic analyses:
- UltraViolet fluorescence (UV): allows you to highlight any retouching present on the painted surface, it is also excellent for detecting previous restorations or additions not belonging to the original painting.
- InfraRed reflectography (IR): allows you to observe, if present, the preparatory drawing, giving specific information about the technique of realization of the work.
- Digital microscope: allows you to observe the surface of the work at various magnifications, allowing you to highlight the painting technique, state of conservation and inspect the craquelure.
- XRF analysis: reveals the chemical nature of the pigments, allowing to differentiate the ancient pigments from the industrial ones.
These analyses can be performed both in the company’s laboratories and at the customer’s premises, as the instruments included in the standard are all portable, thus allowing the tests to be performed directly on site when required.
The package comprises a Scientific Report, a document in which all the information regarding the work is reported, including a detailed Condition Report drawn up according to the Object ID scheme, the description of purpose of the campaign diagnostics, the methods of analysis and the instrumentation used, the results and their critical reading.
This is just one of the five packages that the company offers, in fact, thanks to the vast experience gained over the years, Art-Test is able to advise and think in every situation which is the most appropriate package for you; we always treats each new work as unique and different from all the previous ones, which is why each new diagnostic campaign will be designed and will follow an ad hoc plan.
It should also be noted that all the investigation techniques available are applicable to any type of product, of any invoice, size, material, technique and execution period.
Are you curious to know what the other four packages consist of?
Then visit our website: Services – Art-Test • Art & Technology
Covid19 has accelerated digitalization, for which we believed we were not yet ready. Did we know how to treasure it? Or has the push towards the digital world marked the end of interest in physical works and therefore in exhibitions and museums?
Pandemic closures have devastated the income of museums everywhere. Some institutions may never recover. We need a quick turnaround.
This year marked also a surge in the digital activity: online exhibitions, digital tours, talks with curators and art experts, all what we are now used to.
Digitization has been essential to keep the exchange between institutions and communities alive. This opening up to technology, both on the part of institutions and users, has made it possible to explore another vision, breaking away from habits, entering a little known but intriguing dimension.
The pandemic has shown that an evolution of language and means, previously considered futuristic, is possible. It has been seen that new opportunities can be explored to create synergies between traditional art forms and new technologies.
The signs of recovery appear to be encouraging. There are many planned activities, exhibitions and events. Cultural institutions are betting on the desire to return to see art, artists and collections in person.
We will see if this is really the case. If the need to see a work of art in “flesh and blood” has returned. And if we managed to take advantage of digital channels to increase interest, to cultivate curiosity.
In many of the in-depth studies proposed online, reference was made to the results of the diagnostic investigations and to how much more knowledge of the works and artists they could bring. So why not make use of these insights also “on site”?
By now accustomed to learning more about each artwork, visitors may be disappointed by a tag with title and author alone. It is time for the studies made to be made available to everyone. We all can only benefit from it!
here are those who talk about doing something for young people and those who do it!
Forget about making photocopies!
Coming from two different path – restoration and diagnostics-, and two distant countries (Tenerife, through an Erasmus, and Sesto Fiorentino), we found at Art-Test an efficient but helpful tutor, who between a coffee and an anecdote about past works, she confronted us with the environment of diagnostics by presenting it to us in all its infinite facets.
Never working as an individual but always as a team, combining our knowledge and skills where one filled the gaps of the other, we were able to gain experience on multiple works, during months in which the company put its resources at our complete disposal, allowing us to learn and perform the different analyses, accompanying and supporting us, always ready to help us but at the same time also to be silent observers who from a distance made sure that we would fix any hitches independently.
Furthermore, it was possible to see and understand the internal management of the company and how professionalism and complete dedication are indispensable factors.
Undoubtedly an internship that allows you to improve your training and learn a new one and therefore useful both for those who have studied diagnostics and for those who meet it for the first time.
Art-Test offers you a review of recently publications such as books, TV series, interviews, etc.
‘This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist’. TV series.
Art thefts have their charm and are always particularly interesting because they shed light on the entire sector.
On March 18, 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was looted by a gang of thieves. In the series now on air, period footage is mostly used, with interviews to those who were then the Boston police and to FBI agents who dealt with it. In 1990 we did not have the scientific means we have today, but in particular in the United States it was not clear what the turnover was regarding illicit acts in the world of art, so much so that the FBI did not have a specially dedicated division. But the constant increase in the value of works of art had not escaped the “underworld”. And the 4 episodes of the series not only tell about the theft but place it within the world of organized crime, the world of drug dealing, assuming that perhaps some of the paintings, even if unsaleable on the legal market, could have been used as a “guarantee” for the trade in cocaine. Somehow, the criminal world was ahead of the legal one.
To date, no work has been recovered; there is still a prize of 10 million dollars for information leading to the recovery of the works.
A fate common to many works of art, not least the Nativity of Caravaggio, whose theft in 1969 convinced the Italian Carabinieri to equip themselves with a special unit, a pioneering activity, given that they were the first in the world and that remains still a point of reference today.
Stolen art is difficult to trace, since it is relatively easy to move and can remain hidden for decades before being resold. To counter this trade, databases of stolen artworks have been created, both public, such as that of the Carabinieri, and private ones where, however, each search is against payment.
Of course, as with all databases, their usefulness depends on the content, on the accuracy of the information in it. We recommend that you draw up a file as complete as possible for each work of art you own. This will make it easier to recover in the, hopefully unlikely, event of a theft. Art-Test is of course also at your disposal in this. A small investment you won’t regret!
Spunti diagnostici di riflessione sull'attribuzione
From how they all got on the bandwagon (“I discovered it!” “No, I discovered it first!“) there would seem to be no doubts that the painting at auction in Madrid is the real “Ecce Homo” made by Caravaggio as result of a competition between painters arranged by Monsignor Massimi, as documented in old biographies. About the painting that had been indicated so far as the Massimi’s painting, now in Genoa, many are quick to say that after all no one had ever believed in it, it is clearly not by “him”. Sic transeat gloria mundi.
As diagnosticians, it is of course super interesting for us to go and see why this attribution is so eagerly, and almost unanimously, supported. A fate that did not touch the many other “Caravaggio” that have been proclaimed (even by the same who are pronouncing now) and disowned over the years.
Much has been written about the difference between originals and copies by Caravaggio. As on the possibility that Caravaggio produced “doubles”.
And here we notice the first anomaly, perhaps only temporary. Of all the Caravaggio, or presumed such, that we have investigated, there were always copies. Generally very similar versions, on which to make comparisons on technique and materials used. Also of the “Ecce Homo” Genoese version. Actually we probably know only copies of some of Caravaggio’s inventions.
No other versions of this painting appear to have emerged. Although it is true that the canvas had been in Spain for almost four centuries, and it has the very same subject as a painting documented to have arrived in Madrid in 1659, it seems anomalous that no one has made copies. Among similar composition that come to mind, there is a painting in Malta, with a similar subject, by Mario Minniti.
There are several versions, one of which in Vienna, attributed to Minniti too, of another “Ecce Homo” with an analogous composition, considered by some to be Caravaggesque, but of which the three protagonists do not resemble those of the Madrid canvas.
We diagnosticians would have loved to have been able to make comparisons with a copy or a version.
But the most interesting contribution for us was the commentary by Rossella Vodret, who, together with others, edited two volumes full of observations on the Lombard painter’s technique for Silvana Editoriale.
We quote from an interview on the subject: “Then there are further observations relating to the executive technique, made visible thanks to an HD photo that was sent to me. I am referring to a series of specific executive features of Caravaggio, such as the full-bodied zig-zag white lead sketches that the artist uses mainly starting from 1605 and which are found in various works, such as the San Girolamo Borghese, the San Girolamo di Montserrat, the Flagellation of Capodimonte. They are very particular sketches through which the painter fixes the points in which to position the highlights on the dark preparation of the canvas. It is a feature that, up to now, I have not found in other painters. In the “Ecce Homo” there are zigzag sketches on the chest, shoulder and arm of Christ, all in full light. The incisions are also typical, although we now know that all the artists of the period made the incisions, but these are perfectly compatible with those found on Caravaggio’s autographed paintings “.
We would like to give some news: we have not found them on many Caravaggio that we have investigated, but the famous zigzags traces can also be found in the “San Giovannino” in Empoli, which we studied (unfortunately the allocated budget did not allow a complete diagnostic campaign). We talked about it in the essay we wrote on the occasion of the presentation of the restoration intervention, and in the video that you can see (in Italian) on our YouTube channel.
We look forward to learning more. Hoping that it doesn’t disappear into thin air.
Very precious majolica with relief decorations and a fascinating history
“Those who want to do great things must pay particular attention to details”, as the poet Paul Valéry writes, is what the Tuscan potters did by inventing “zaffera” majolica.
These are ceramics conceived and produced only in some specific areas of the Italian peninsula and in a very short period of time but with such an elegant and particular manufacture, that it determined immediate success. In a short time they replaced the previous majolica on the tables of the richest mansions of the fifteenth century.
Characterized by a two-tone decoration: the pearly white background based on stanniferous glaze and the deep blue decoration, pasty and with glassy reflections, in relief compared to the rest, they were immediately received positively by customers, probably thanks to the completely new decoration patterns, compared to the ornaments of the other majolicas on the market at the time. In fact, it can be said that, although today they are nowadays almost completely unknown and not very present on the market, they have high prices, as they have had historically an important impact, in fact, their presence is not rare, for example in paintings of the period: Beato Angelico who inserts them inside of his great works and undertakes to paint them with great care and attention in the convivial scenes as in “San Domenico and his companions“. But Angelico is not the only one: Bicci di Lorenzo also includes these particular majolica in his tables as in the case of the “Miracle of San Nicola“.
Beato Angelico “San Domenico and his companions” predella of “Coronation of the Virgin” 1430-1432
Bicci di Lorenzo “Miracle of San Nicola” 1433-1435
La Zaffera, which initially established itself in the Florentine and Sienese area, later extended to northern Lazio, Faenza and Umbria. Among all, the ones from Viterbo are the most prestigious ones.
Generally the images depicted are characterized by a complete two-dimensionality, where the shades are completely absent, and a main figure placed in the center, is surrounded by elegant decorations. Rarely the main subject is anthropomorphic, the most popular are dogs and birds, more rarely fish.
Instead, the variety of decorations of the frame is wider: plant and floral inserts, plant shoots, labellum, wolf teeth, droplets and oak leaves with acorns and berries.
In Tuscany, majolicas were mainly made with a completely decorated surface; in Faenza, instead, the decorations were confined within circles made of brown manganese or blue enamel; the Viterbo decoration is always characterized by patterns that develop over the entire surface but thinner and less dense.
Examples of Faenza majolica (a), Viterbo majolica (b) and Tuscan majolica (c)
The most requested objects, from what can be seen from the various finds, were mostly trunk-shaped cups and mugs with ovoid body and trilobate mouth; the production of plates and trays is less intense, this is probably due to the fact that the relief of the decorations is more appreciable if made on concave surfaces rather than on flat or convex surfaces.
The short production period is attributable to two factors: the high cost of cobalt blue necessary for production and the difficult construction technique that resulted in the production of numerous wastes characterized by little relief and poorly defined decorations.
The blue pigment was laid mixed with a particular loose clay called “barbottina” on the surface previously glazed and cooked, the majolica was then subjected to a second cooking phase in which the decoration would swell while maintaining the basic design.
This last complex phase of production had to be carried out in environments where temperatures of more than about 1000°C would not be reached in order to compensate for the melting and the consequent inevitable casting of cobalt oxide.
However, since they did not have such precise control of the internal temperatures of the furnaces, it often happened to obtain unsaleable products and soon the production costs exceeded the revenues.
This is probably the main reason why it was abandoned after only thirty years and was replaced by the Italian-Moorish majolica, always characterized by a white-blue bichromy but of more immediate and certainly less expensive realization.
Being so few objects available, today even what was then considered waste, has great value.
The characteristics mentioned above such as the cobalt blue decorations with a heightened relief on a white background, the short production time and the difficult execution technique, are safe elements on which to base a diagnostic investigation.
Although it is usual to think of diagnostics mostly linked to the study of paintings, it is certainly extendable to other numerous types of objects and also in the case of ceramics, it allows to distinguish originals from fakes and to date majolica using different techniques of a non-invasive, invasive, micro-destructive or elemental kind.
In the specific case of majolicas, ceramics, porcelains, there are mainly five techniques to which it is advisable to employ to obtain information about their manufacture, history and composition, as illustrated in the posts below: element analysis, microscope, thermoluminescence, XRF, UV fluorescence.
It is recent news the publication of a call promoted by the Province of Salerno, in which professional conservatories were invited to apply to lend their work for the restoration of the institution’s heritage, totally for free. In exchange for it , the call just mentioned some promotion.
It is upsetting, but it didn’t surprise us. In fact, what was written in a public call in Italy, a country where restoration should be a serious affair, is not far from what we have been seeing for years now.
The truth is that we are a country that restores its works almost exclusively thanks to philanthropists or associations, who engage in constant fundraising.
The perpetuation of our beauty is now entrusted to the availability of enthusiasts, often foreigners, who donate money, even considerable amounts (often to be able to deduct them from taxes) to fill needs that should instead find support from our Public Administration.
All this could be less bad if the lack of funds to allocate to this sector did not also have the consequence of degrading the professionalism of those who carry out the works, and minimizing the restorations budgets, where even diagnostics, therefore the deep knowledge of the work and its conservative problems, is made redundant or carried out with non-scientific methodologies and technologies, becoming therefore fundamentally useless.
The value of the restorer’s work cannot be relegated to a mention on the plaque that flanks the restored work.
You cannot repay the professionalism acquired in years of study and practice with a citation in the newspaper.
The expression ‘there is not enough money’ is not justified. The money must be found.
The restoration carried out with minimal budget will totally be to the detriment of the work and society as a whole, because, the most suitable care for its preservation for future generations will not be carried out.
A disaster that has been announced for far too long, which none of the public institutions really seem to want to tackle.
Perhaps it is time not to ask for unilateral sacrifices and really recognise the importance of this sector for the preservation of our heritage. Not just words (and citations).
Illegitimate son, even if recognized by his father. Multiform genius, father of the Florentine Renaissance.
No, we are not talking about Leonardo but about Leon Battista Alberti, born Battista, self-proclaimed Leon, less “pop” but just as fundamental as Da Vinci for the prodigious rebirth of the arts.
Fascinating character, less known and who fortunately has for now passed unscathed by imaginative interpretations.
From a noble and wealthy Florentine family, he was born far from Florence because the family was in exile – and suffered a lot from this condition. He studied and distinguished himself in numerous disciplines: architecture, literature, mathematics, linguistics, philosophy, optics, music and archeology; he was also a brilliant cryptographer.
Prototype of the modern intellectual artist (the others came from craftmanship), he starts from theoretical research.
His first studies were of a literary and legal nature. The artistic training took place from 1432 in Rome, which represented a fundamental step in outlining his relationship with classicism. As Brunelleschi, he fixed in the study of the proportions of Roman buildings the starting point of architectural design and attributed to the ancients the model to emulate for both structural and decorative aspects. From 1434 he was in Florence where he recognized the realisation of his own artistic principles in the art of Donatello, Masaccio and Brunelleschi. To Brunelleschi he dedicated the treatise De pictura, written both in Latin and in vernacular Italian.
His most significant production was in the field of architecture: in Rome, where with the patronage of the humanist pope Niccolò V, his university friend, he worked as an archaeologist, restorer of ancient monuments and urban planner and where he wrote the “De re aedificatoria” on the problems of the Renaissance city), in Rimini where he designed the Malatesta Temple and in Mantua where he oversaw the projects for the churches of San Sebastiano and Sant’Andrea.
In Florence, Alberti worked above all for the rich merchant Giovanni Rucellai, who was also a close friend of his. The Florentine works will be the only ones completed before his death: the Palazzo Rucellai in via della Vigna Nuova, the completion of the marvelous facade of the Church of Santa Maria Novella and the very elegant temple of the Holy Sepulcher in the Rucellai Chapel inspired by the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and intended to house the remains of Giovanni Rucellai (located in the now deconsecrated church of San Pancrazio which is part of the Marino Marini Museum complex). The funeral monument was an immediate success, so much so that in 1471 Pope Paul II issued a bull in which five years of plenary indulgence were granted to the faithful who visited it on Good Friday and Holy Sunday.
He died in Rome on April 25, 1472, mourned and venerated. However, we do not even have a certain image of him, despite the fact that he was also a painter.
No Salvator Mundi dispute.
His ideas were the ones to triumph over time.
The images of the most beautiful works of art, the best “illustrators”, the most powerful ambassadors of the best part of Italy, cannot be used freely in our country (abroad, on the other hand, only rarely there are controls, above, for example a Dutch wallpaper).
The images of Italian public works, of our cultural heritage, kept in our museums, cannot be used to advertise services, products, to remind everyone who we are and where we come from.
Not in Italy.
Not without paying a heavy tax to the state. Even if it is uneconomic for the state, because it is proven that paying employees to manage this task also costs more than it brings.
Moreover, it implies renouncing to hire officers of cultural institutions, often graduated in art history, in tasks that are much more rewarding for them and beneficial for the state, such as research, dissemination, care of our heritage.
In many parts of the rest of the world, attitudes have changed. More and more institutions have opened access to their collections in “open access” mode, exploiting the contemporary passion for images and the ease with which they can circulate nowadays, to fulfill their institutional mission, which is to make art known, to make it alive, participatory, to offer everyone the possibility to enjoy it.
What is Italy waiting for, before embracing “open access” and adapting to the European regulation on copyright in the digital market?
Not too long ago, the so-called “primitives” were the highest aspiration. Billionaires did everything (even buying fakes) to have an artwork of the Italian Middle Ages, to feel and appear cultured and refined.
Then the decline.
But is it true that they have nothing more to say nowadays?
To try to subvert this perception, the Frick Collection took the opportunity of the temporary transfer of their headquarters to Madison Avenue, in New York, to redesign the setting and encourage visitors to see with new eyes. Not only the paintings, furniture, enamels, bronzes, porcelain and carpets that previously coexisted with each other in sumptuous environments, are now exhibited in a linear and almost Spartan place, but have also been reduced to little more half, and grouped for the first time by origin, type and chronology.
After all, there are many artworks, many images, that we have available online 24/7. What can museums add, what food for thought and interest can they offer, apart from being the physical container of a collection?
Frick Museum’s idea is the opposite to that of returning the works to the places for which they were created. Rather, they choose to isolate them to allow visitors to focus their attention on each one.
To illustrate this approach and its advantages, for example, the case of the panel depicting the Temptation of Christ on the mountain, from the Gospel of Matthew, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, has been perfectly described here.
If instead of moving on, overwhelmed by too many stimuli offered by overcrowded settings or by the thousands of images on Instagram, we are invited to stop and look, and a world of knowledge opens up, beyond the appreciation of the narrative pleasantness of the composition.
In fact, one can learn that the painting was part of the predella on the back of the Majesty of the Cathedral of Siena, dismembered and sold almost 5 centuries after its creation, in 1771. We can discover that it illustrated the always-current dialogue between good and evil, personified by Christ and a devil. Devil who has bat wings, because these, nocturnal animals, half mammals and half birds, represented the loss of clarity, which is an attribute of the good side.
Once a key is offered to the viewer, all the painter’s choices in rendering a subject so full of symbolism become clearer. Choices that reflect the novelty of Italian art, which frees itself from the Byzantine one, for example in the realism of the face of Christ and also in representing these turreted cities, in pastel tones, on steep mountains and almost devoid of vegetation.
To such clues, more layers are added, like those that are the result of having gone through so many centuries and so many fashions. The two angels on the right, for example, were painted later by another hand, profoundly changing the balance of the composition.
Now that you’ve seen it up close, aren’t you in love with it?
Duccio di Buoninsegna is one of the masters that Art-Test had the pleasure and honor to study and therefore who has become part of “Sotto l’oro”, a database that includes 100 paintings from the Pinacoteca of Siena. The first collection of diagnostic and scholar data on such artworks.
During this work, we also investigated the panel on the cover, by Sassetta, the displays other devils, so impressive that they have been disfigured by some faithful soul in the past, to try to annihilate their powers (if you look carefully you can decipher the inscription). And where gold leaves the background and the pretence of imitating the goldsmith to become a true pigment.
The struggle between good and evil is always fascinating. But Duccio’s tavoletta could also tell the story of the pandemic of the fourteenth century, of the plague that annihilated Siena, of the changing landscape, of art in Dante’s time, of collecting and art trafficking at the beginning of the twentieth century, of the change of taste, of the idea of protecting the Cultural Heritage, of a technique that has allowed the works to reach us almost intact.
Not bad for an old, out-of-date primitive.
The Polyptych of the Mystical Lamb by Van Eyck is again open to the public, with new lighting but above all with a new, very expensive, case, necessary for a better conservation of the artwork.
To tell the truth, they should worry about other aspects.
We are still convinced of what we wrote a little over a year ago in our newsletter
The astonishing silence of the Lamb not the Optical Revolution
It is an image that has gone viral, perhaps to promote an expensive exhibition, the umpteenth “made in Belgium” restoration of the Van Eyck brothers’ Mystical Lamb Polyptych (N.B.”The Ghent altar revealed” only closed in 2017).
The realistic eyes of the Lamb as we had known them, have been removed to reveal the first version of the painting, where the Lamb has a less ovine and more “human” appearance.
Let’s read what the restorer told the New York Times: “at some point in the 1500s another painter, or perhaps a group of painters, decided that it needed a reworking. They may have wanted to change the painting for theological reasons — this was, after all, the middle of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Church was rewriting its doctrines at the Council of Trent — or because painting styles had changed“.
The whole painting was redone, she said, “not only the lamb but all the draperies, the top part of the landscape, the sky and the city view, and on the reverse of the wings, about 70 percent was overpainted.”
She added: “What is peculiar about this one is that it was extremely carefully done so that all the contours of the figures were respected and most of the colors were reproduced with very high-quality pigments. It was not a botched job.”
But luckily, restorers discovered that there was also a very thick layer of varnish between the original painting and the newer version, which made it relatively easy for them to remove that layer to get back to van Eyck’s work, Ms. Dubois said. The original head of the lamb, for example, was “in very good condition,” she said. “We only had to do a tiny restoration of tiny paint losses.”
Let’s read it again.
They removed a “repaint” not only historicized, but almost coeval, made with similar pigments and techniques.
Already since 1972 the Italian Restoration Charter (Art 6) absolutely forbids such practices, and for good reasons.
Especially since the first version of the lamb was clearly visible in reflectography and it could have been documented even better with our Multilayer Method, and maybe illustrated in a display panel.
So why this crazy and “criminal” decision?
We are left speechless. And it is a pity that the leaders of Italian restoration arena seem to be speechless too.
We would have preferred to discuss van Eyck’s true Optical Revolution, the one described by David Hockney and Charles Falco but also by Roberta Lapucci. The one that made it possible, through the use of mirrors and lenses, perhaps not to Hubert, but certainly to Jan, to obtain such a photographic rendering of faces and objects. And lambs.
The Florence Heritech international conference, characterized by the particular formula that sees a scientific conference taking place together with a restoration and conservation fair, has opened the Call for Papers, for the edition to be held in May 2022.
Here the deadlines:
July 16, 2021 | Deadline to submit abstract
September 30, 2021 | Abstract acceptance notification
December 17, 2021 | Deadline to submit draft paper
January 31, 2022 | Submission of final paper
These are the macro areas:
Materials Science, Diagnostics and Monitoring, Engineering, ICT and digital heritage, Environment and Cultural Heritage, Sustainable Architecture for Cultural Heritage.
Florence Heritech’s idea is to create a synergy between the artistic, artisan and entrepreneurial world, and the university and research world, offering an overview of current developments on a global level, promoting links between students and the conservation industry, and disseminating the most advanced scientific discoveries.
Here the link to the proceeding, published in a indexed Open Access journal (IOP), of past editions.
The city of Florence, chosen as the venue, will therefore once again be a place of meeting and discussion for experts, operators and enthusiasts from all over the world.
Art-Test will participate, as it has already done in past editions, presenting its works and new discoveries. Do not miss it!
Sometimes the demonstration of how useful, and surprising, the collaboration between art and science in the study of a painting can be, goes beyond common expectations.
A few years ago, in the “Olive trees” artwork that Van Gogh painted outdoors in 1889, a grasshopper was found trapped in oil layers. The insect was almost invisible to the naked eye given its very small size, and at first it was mistaken for a small leaf. Despite a consultation with a biologist, it was not possible to determine in which season the painting was made, however, it was possible to assert that the insect ended up on the canvas already dead, since no signs of movement were detected.
A new study on the same work has also revealed the presence of particles of dry leaves and numerous information on the technique used by the painter. The XRF and FTIR techniques have in fact shed light on how Van Gogh proceeded layer by layers and on how he preferred the combination of complementary colours, aware of the harmony they would have created as a whole.
A curious aspect of studying the works carried out outdoors is the possibility of discovering information on the nature of the subject of the painting, beyond what the painting itself represents and wants to communicate. With the masters of the so-called School of Barbizon we witness the spread of painting en plein air, which will be the stylistic code of the painters generally referred to as Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Landscapes, trees and rivers become the protagonists of the works together with the subjective vision of the performer, who often proceeds quickly and with large brushstrokes; the boundary between preparatory sketch and finished work becomes blurred!
Thanks for example to letters and biographies, about the habits of painters, we are in possession of a lot of information. We know, for example, that Daubigny had prepared his study on a boat and that Monet did the same, as well as usually painting from his own garden. At the same time, many objects for outdoor painting were invented, including kits with transportable easels, while the development of photography was an important support tool in capturing images of atmospheric phenomena, to be reworked with ease in the studio.
Diagnostic investigations allow us to know more about the “experience” of a work, about how the painter chose colours, how he gave quick brushstrokes before the light changed and how some works were retouched even after years.
In the most curious cases, like that of Van Gogh, they also give us the pleasure of feeling, at least for a moment, transported inside the painting, among the leaves moved by the mistral.
Do you want some more examples? The sprouts of leaves on the canvas of Gustave Caillebotte‘s “Laundry hanging to dry on the banks of the Seine” and the grains of sand on Armand Guillamin‘s “The sea at Saint-Palais”. This is also living art … as well as living on art !!
500 years after the death of Raphael, and in conjunction with the planned celebrations, a very important project is underway: “Study, restoration and valorisation of the “Putto holding a garland” of the National Academy of San Luca” (here below). The assumption is that the putto may be an original by the Master. The restoration began on 7 January, sponsored by the Borghese Gallery-Roman Heritage Onlus .
The project involves an interdisciplinary team with expertise in historical-artistic research, restoration and diagnostic investigations.
A story full of charm and mystery, but which clashes with some provenance data and thus starts with many doubts. Hopefully this complex project with lead to definitive answers.
The fragment belonged to the collection of the neoclassical artist Jean-Baptiste Wicar. Documented for the first time in 1829, it became part of the collection of the Accademia di San Luca in 1834 as a bequest of the French painter and collector. It probably arrived from Bologna, as Quatremère de Quincy wrote in 1829.
Before this time, however, there is no trace of the putto.
In the restoration of 1959, Pico Cellini found a relationship with a passage from Vasari’s Lives: the putto would be what remains of the first version of the fresco depicting Isaiah made for the Church of Sant ‘Agostino (here on top). Apparently, after having seen the Sistine Chapel in the company of Bramante, Raphael decided to redo the depiction of the prophet from scratch, adding two “lively and pinkish” cherubs.
However, in fact in the same year the art historian Luigi Salerno put forward the hypothesis that the putto could instead be a painted copy of the same Wicar.
The first to document the fresco’s “stacco” was Pungileoni, who however describes a wrong provenance. According to what he wrote, the putto in question, at that time in the collection of Jean Baptiste Wicar, it was on a fireplace in the apartment of Innocent VIII in the Vatican.
The fresco depicted two cherubs holding the coat of arms of Julius II and those, would have been detached and alienated, when works for the Vatican Museum were carried out. One of the two would have arrived to Wicar, the other instead was sent to England. But the putti of Julius II still exist (see at the top).
Plausible hypotheses can only be the followings: an original executed by Raphael with the same cartoon used for the putto in S. Agostino, a later copy or a fake.
We will know the answers at the end of the work, which starts with the right skills, but, in my opinion, with little hope.
Sono aperte le iscrizioni alla Scuola di Archeologia Giudiziaria
Unfortunately, the world of archaeological heritage is increasingly subjugated by criminal practices. The mind immediately goes to the infamous “grave robbers” who have plundered and still plunder our soil and our seas in search of antiquities.
But this practice has also been documented, for example, to the detriment of the Medici tombs.
The portraits of the Medici family, especially those of women, display their splendid jewels, with which they were often buried. As early as 1857, the director of the State Archives and Grand Ducal Antiques Dealer, Luigi Passerini Orsini de’Rilli, in charge of the Reconnaissance of the bodies of the Grand Dukes, found that many of these had been desecrated and deprived of the precious objects they contained.
How to defend yourself?
Archaeology, and art in general, need more and more competent professionals.
The fight against criminal activities in this sector passes through the institutions set up by the States, with the help of professional, who operate in the judicial and extra-judicial sphere, with adequate and complete academic preparation.
In this context that the Centre for Criminological Studies – Cultural Heritage Area – Judicial Archaeology Department in collaboration with the Archeomafie International Observatory, is programming a BIENNALE SCHOOL OF HIGHER EDUCATION on “JUDICIAL ARCHEOLOGY AND CRIME AGAINST CULTURAL HERITAGE“, where Art-Test’s experts will teach.
The school is aimed at graduates in archaeology, history of art, architecture, conservation of cultural heritage, restoration and other disciplines in the legal and humanistic sectors.
For those interested here is the link: https://bit.ly/3mWTV6x
Life, death, his fortune, the inheritance he left, the history of the “Archives”, fakes, foundations, exhibitions.
Already in January we discussed the innovative exposition that the Museum of Lille created for Amedeo Modigliani. An exhibition with an investigative approach. But, given the pandemic we are in, it was not possible to open it, and also the related Symposium did not take place.
But the scrutiny of the Labronian painter and his work, does not stop. “L’affare Modigliani” published by Chiarelettere is a book rich of information, all supported by references to sources. It tackles all the hot topics, including fakes and the role of foundations. Three hundred pages where the story is organized into “crime scenes“. where each topic is treated with scientific rigor.
Our favourite chapter is of course the one where Modigliani’s technique is illustrated through material analysis. Of course, we would have liked it to be even more detailed but we realize that a substantial appendix would have been necessary.
If you haven’t read it yet, waiting for the French exhibition, Art-Test recommends it.
A year has passed, we have 12 months behind us in which our life and our work have changed.
Looking back to understand the present is part of our work, as is the careful study of the “back” of a painting.
Very often the “verso”, “back” of a work makes the “front”, the “recto” more understandable. We know that artists from the 15th century began to sign their works on the front, but in recent times many chose to put their signature on the back, also indicating a date.
But in addition to the signature, true or fake, on the back we can find stamps, labels, codes: each of these elements is an important fact in the reconstruction of the work’s past.
Codes referable to the cataloguing in a collection or to lot number in an auction. Stamps imposed by protection offices or customs and labels of various kinds. But even this kind of data can be forged. The first doubts may arise during a careful condition report, but specific diagnostic analyses can be targeted to understand if they are original elements. For example, a colour label, created with a dot matrix printer, cannot be produced for an exhibition in 1975 !
Perhaps not everyone knows that the court case of one of the most famous contemporary counterfeiters: Wolfgang Beltracchi (born Wolfgang Fisher), began with a label on the back of a painting bearing the words “Collection Flechtheim“, when it was known that Flectheim was indeed an important collector, but never put labels.
In short, looking at the back is as important as studying the front. Knowing a “verse” well, helps us to better understand the “front”. In the same way we must look at this past year with attention to understand well our present and thus try to imagine our future.
Almost 720 years ago, March 10, 1302, “Alighieri Dante is convicted of bartering, fraud, falsehood, wilful misconduct, malice, unfair extortion practices, illicit proceeds, pederasty, and is sentenced to a fine of 5000 florins, perpetual disqualification from public office , perpetual exile (in absentia), and if he is taken, burned at the stake, so that he dies “(Book of the nail – State Archives of Florence)
The accusations were spurious, it was a political revenge, but Dante was still condemned along with four others, all in default.
And from that moment on, he never saw his homeland again.
But how was the Florence he was leaving?
“The city Dante lived in was full of construction sites, where the municipality and the Church were spending a lot, and giving work to crowds of workers, to create the Florence that we know, and that Dante, (…), never saw completed: from 1279 the construction site of Santa Maria Novella was open, from 1284 that of the Badia, from 1295 that of Santa Croce, from 1296 that of Santa Maria del Fiore, from 1299 that of Palazzo Vecchio. Like London or New York today, Florence pulsed with life and money, and changed face without regret or concern for the past “, writes Alessandro Barbero in” Dante “(Ed. Laterza, 2020)
But which artworks, of those that remained till today, did he manage to see?
Surely Cimabue‘s Crucifix, made between 1280 and 1285 for Santa Croce in Florence, and also that by Giotto – the artist was practically the same age of Dante – painted between 1285 and 1290 for Santa Maria Novella.
As Alessandro Barbero has often recalled, the Middle Ages, the times in which Dante lived, was certainly not a dark and barbaric era. Even in painting, as we know, these were revolutionary and positive years.
The Byzantine dogma of the icons that substantiate the divinity and have a precise place in the iconostasis, the area intended for the liturgy, was subverted.
The icons, probably because they were initially treated as relics in the West, and therefore worthy of a place on the altar, were no longer forced into the iconostasis’s space and could therefore take on any shape and size, offering much more freedom to artists.
Freedom of expression and recognition of social status that allow Giotto to invent a new language and the art to go from having to imitate jewellery to be considered precious, to enchanting for its ability to represent real life.
It is a fascinating journey that we discussed at the 2015 “Paths to Europe” Conference in Brussels and that you can find in the database of the works of the Pinacoteca di Siena, which documents this extraordinary moment, which now, also thanks to the undisputed communication skills of Barbero, is rediscovered.
The recent discovery of a very rare Chinese porcelain reminds us of another remarkable discovery for Eastern art and technique in which we were involved.
A few days ago, thanks to a search started in 2014, a RU bowl belonging to the Song dynasty was identified within the collection of the Dresden museum. A similar specimen was auctioned, and sold, in 2017, to the record price of 37.7 million dollars.
For the exclusive use of the imperial court, the colour of these porcelain is a particular blue shade made possible by the presence of agate. Poetically it is described as “blue of the sky in a clearing of the clouds after the rain”.
The subject of the discovery made by working together with S.T.Art-Test and the scholar Riccardo Montanari, on an object of oriental origin too, was also colour, and its trade and use in the East.
The original aim of the research was to demonstrate how non-invasive investigations could be alternatives to micro-destructive ones and diriment in the authentication of oriental porcelain. Thus, favouring non-invasive diagnostics, the study featured a polychrome enameled Mukozuke porcelain, also very rare, produced in the Kan’ei period.
In particular, the analyses investigated blue and yellow pigments. The yellow surprisingly turned out to be Naples Yellow, a novelty for Japanese production. A somewhat destabilizing discovery.
But this data was crossed with historical sources, and it was possible to understand how the Jesuits imported, in their mission to Japan, the Renaissance technique of majolica decoration and therefore the use of this yellow pigment.
Only later, did the Japanese potters transfer this know-how to their Chinese colleagues.
Another step in the endless journey of research. Here is the article for those wishing to read more
The renewed controversy over the attribution of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi calls for a reflection on how it has become all-important not so much to choose which painting to buy but which attribution.
We have seen several times how the purchase of some artworks was later refused because of a disputed attribution. Indeed, the painting does not change, but the attribution does, and it makes all the difference.
A typical path is that of the so-called dormant attributions, or works initially proposed in generalist auctions, which after a few years acquire credit , with new more prestigious attributions, and become among the objects of most interest of important circuits. The carousel often does not end there. Because the prestigious attributions are then challenged and questioned. And again the economic value changes.
Logically, one would think that the more important the proposed name is, the more thorough the testing, and, therefore, more certain and definitive the attribution.
Moreover, since the auction is governed by a sales contract, one could imagine that among the documents available to the buyer there must be also the results of a standardized scientific diagnostic campaign – not limited at mere photographic snapshots or involving the use of other not appropriate instrumentation, but following a specific protocol.
But in reality these cases are still rare.
In the magical world of auctions, unlike in other fields, the buyer is not allowed, for example, to appoint own consultants to check the documents exhibited or perform new tests.
Take the Salvator Mundi: it was initially a “Boltraffio” at a lesser auction, then it was later proposed as a “Leonardo” with great fanfare. And only today the controversy focuses on the effectiveness of the analyses used and questions whether all possibilities have been examined.
We wonder, for example, if the recently discovered Salvator Mundi, owned by the Museum of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples, has already been studied with a correct scientific perspective or if it will also be taken for a merrygoround.
We know that during the loan for the “Leonardo in Rome” exhibition in 2019, it underwent a restoration and was proposed with an uncertain attribution Girolamo Alibrandi or the beloved Caprotti. But what about a serious diagnostic campaign?
Of course it is not (yet) proposed as a work by Leonardo but nevertheless a complete diagnostic campaign could help to better clarify the genesis of the copies of this subject by the Leonardesque circle. And to record how it is scientifically possible to distinguish an Alibrandi from a Leonardo. And stop the carousel.
Polemiche pretestuose sul nuovo direttore di Pompei
Gabriel Zuchtriegel is the new director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park. Not even 48 hours have passed since the appointment and the controversy is pressing. He is judged to be “too young” with “little experience”. On the contrary, during last years, we were able to appreciate his passion and professionalism, and his academic preparation.
In 2014, thanks to AIAr, we participated in the studies conducted on archaeological finds from Paestum. The goal was to contribute to an exhibition that highlighted the morbid drives behind the theft or the purchase of archaeological finds from clandestine excavations.
Thanks to the team scientific investigations it has been possible to understand which pieces were original and which were fakes, created for pure fraudulent purposes.
In 2016 we replicated the Paestum experience by being part of the research group that studied “The diver” and “the lovers”, as well as the “palmettes” tomb decorations.
The results of the first campaign can be consulted in the catalogue of the “Possession” exhibition. Outcomes of the second investigations were presented in the latest edition of Florence Heri-Tech and published OpenAccess.
Art-Test wishes the best wishes to the new director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, may the work and the results that are unanimously recognized for the Paestum area (Museum, redevelopment of the perimeter areas, development of the tourist industry) be replicated in his new assignment.
Cats… they hide everywhere and pop up when you do not expect them! For example, in this painting by Frans Floris in which a cat is visible only thanks to Reflectography, as it is not present in the final version.
And, did you know that a painting very similar to this one, now at the Palatine Gallery in Florence, can be seen in the “Cabinet d’amateur”, which represents the workshop of Jan Suellincks and is attributed to J. Franken II (now at the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussels)? Can you spot it? Will there be a cat underneath there too?🐱
How to double your income during pandemic
This past year was a fatal year. A year of closures or openings in fits and starts, of crises and layoffs; in short, a disaster for the state of health of art, increasingly overwhelmed by events. The bitter truth is that there is still no end in sight to the pandemic.
The average decline in visitors to European museums in 2020 compared to 2019 was 75%, as published by the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO), surveying 600 museums in 48 countries.
But it is not the demand for art that declined. During the long lockdown period, it was often art that we called to comfort us. Many institutions remained “open” online, offering each public a different experience, in order to keep interest alive and active.
Some performed better than others. It is evident that not everyone has been able to face this chaos in the same way, some for lack of staff, some for lack of equipment, or even worse for the absence of a strategy for programming, design and creation of contents. But It is evident that there is a great potential for digital.
At this point, as the pandemic continues, museums will all need to be able to work in a structured way with this new means. As budgets are not forecast to increase, what could be the new business model?
To face the challenge that this change imposes, not only should institutions evolve, but also the general thinking should do so. It is fundamental to relaunch the very idea of a museum. In fact, one of the fundamental investments should be the recruitment of trained and qualified figures and not (only) of trainees who improvise as social media managers, fundraisers, supervisory assistants, secretaries or press officers.
Moreover, and above all, it is necessary to get rid of the association museum = a closed and mouldy place, which lives in the imagination of many. It should be replaced by the concept of the new museum that intertwines with the community, and is a place of local identity where people can recognize themselves and actively participate to events, not just a place where masterpieces can be admired in a passive fashion.
But of course this involves a semi-revolution, and it certainly comes at a cost. How to deal with it?
Museums are not doing well as we have seen. For example, there was a strong controversy, followed by a petition, for the auctioning of works of art by the MET. The New York Times reported that the Met, facing a $ 150 million deficit, has contacted auction houses about potential art sales. The New York museum is not the first, but given the weight of the institution, it could definitively clear this practice, prompting other museums to follow suit, in America, but also in the rest of the world.
Less art to keep museums alive?
At MArTA in Taranto they found an alternative, new and advanced model that we really like and that has allowed them to double their turnover by offering a full virtual 3D experience of the whole collection, attracting donations, and, mostly creating a modern FabLab inside the museum, offering a variety of workshops for modern craftsmanship.
We hope that in the New (!) Italian Minister of Culture it will take a cue!
The Madonna and Child by Bartolomè Esteban Murillo, dated around 1675, counts Gustave Flaubert among its many admirers. He, after having made a trip to Rome in 1851, spoke of it in these terms: “I am in love with the Virgin by Murillo of the Gallery Corsini. Her head haunts me and her eyes continue to pass in front of me like two dancing lanterns”. ‘The French writer had grasped the great intensity of an apparently simple but highly expressive composition.
What he had not been able to grasp, is what only current diagnostic investigations can do!
On the occasion of the recent restoration, the painting was subjected for the first time to scientific studies which revealed the presence of the figure of a Saint, almost certainly Saint Francis in prayer, underneath the figure of the Virgin. The reuse of canvases in itself is not a novelty, on the contrary, both in painting and in sculpting the custom of “recycling” materials and supports is probably as old as art. But here something exceptional happens,: parts of the previous picture are used as a basis for a new figure, the folds of the Saint’s habit form the drapery of the Madonna’s leg.
The wonders that artworks reveal are always numerous and unpredictable!
We await with curiosity the presentation of the restored painting, scheduled for April!
Let’s face it, about a year after the start of the pandemic, we can’t wait to go back to travel. We practice our languages watching series with the original sound tracks, cook recipes from faraway latitudes, write a nostalgic emails to our Erasmus friends, and sighly archive airline newsletters. But. But when something beautiful happens in Florence, -and luckily things happen often- , a proudly parochial motion shakes us!
The great restoration work of the mosaics in the Baptistery of Florence is about to end and they will soon be accessible to the public in all their beauty, together with the discoveries that have emerged, about the history of the monument and the artistic techniques used.
Art–Test also had the pleasure of working in “our” Baptistery a few years ago: we conducted a thermographic survey that involved the mosaic in the “Women’s gallery” to verify the success of the innovative consolidation technique developed by the restorers of the Opificio Delle Pietre Dure.
Thermal maps can shed light on the life of a work, the materials it is made of and the renovations it has undergone.
It is always amazing the amount of interesting information with which we can enrich the view of the artistic treasures… everywhere!
Selfie in the caraffe
We were extremely honored to hear Dr. Maria Matilde Simari talk about the discovery of Art-Test on Caravaggio’s Bacchus during the popular Facebook online events produced by the Uffizi Galleries.
A small but extraordinary self-portrait that literally came to light thanks to the multispectral investigations we conducted in 2009, when the painting was still covered with old deposits and aged varnish.
Now the restoration has brought it back into view and it has become an attraction within an attraction, for tourists from all over the world. “Especially for the Chinese”, says Dr. Simari, commenting: “who knows why”.
Here is the full video of the lesson, which explores many aspects of this famous painting: from its discovery in the Uffizi storage room to the relationship that binds it to Florence and the Medici.
We love to look at it and hear its history, proud of having contributed to shedding some light on the painting and on the artist.
In diretta dagli Uffizi, Maria Matilde Simari, storica dell’arte, ci illustrerà il Bacco di Caravaggio.
Pubblicato da Gallerie degli Uffizi su Martedì 19 gennaio 2021
On February 3, 1865, Florence became the capital of Italy, to stay so until 1871.
The news, which should have made Florentines proud, on the contrary, did not excite them at all. Bettino Ricasoli, who was also Prime Minister, in anticipation of major problems and an equally waste of money, called the move a “cup of poison” for the city.
The town planning was partly modified in the name of the necessary modernization and the need to host “the burocrats”. The “avenues” were traced, gutting the medieval quarter and tearing down the walls by Arnolfo di Cambio.
The historic buildings of the city became the seats of political power. The King took up residence at Palazzo Pitti, the Prime Minister at Palazzo Medici Riccardi. The Chamber of Deputies was housed in the Salone dei Cinquecento.
Politically, the years of the Florentine capital were quite turbulent: 8 governments and 5 presidents of the Council.
A good beginning bodes well!
In the photo an unpublished painting currently in the studio in our laboratory: Carlton Alfred Smith (British, 1853–1946) “Piazza del Mercato Vecchio in Florence”. This square was destroyed to make room for Piazza della Repubblica. On the left the Loggia del Grano, now in Piazza dei Ciompi
It was January 30, 1518, when Leonardo Buonafede, “spedalingo” or rector of the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, commissioned Giovan Battista di Jacopo di Gasparre, a promising artist of humble origins, without a real surname and called Rosso Fiorentino (Florence, 8 March 1494 – Fontainebleau, 14 November 1540) a Sacred Conversation with the Madonna and Child surrounded by Saints: Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony the Abbot, Saint Stephen and Saint Jerome.
Delivery was scheduled for June of the same year and the agreed amount was 25 wide gold florins (fiorini larghi).
Vasari tells us that, however, Spedalingo, seeing the sketched panel, was strongly disappointed: he established that the Saints seemed rather “devils”, and so he ran away from home and did not want the panel, saying that Rosso had pranked him.
But everything has a price: the dispute was resolved with the deduction of 9 florins from the remuneration for the painter, an almost 40% discount.
However, the altarpiece never reached the Church of Ognissanti. It was still too disturbing, despite, probably, some corrections to the expressions on the faces that, according to Vasari, at the beginning Rosso always made “cruel and desperate”, softening them just before delivery.
The Spedalingo resolved it was better to send it to a country church owned by the hospital, dedicated to Saint Stephen, in Mugello.
In fact, many innovative elements were introduced in the painting, first of all is the elimination of any hierarchical form between the Virgin and the Saints: the Madonna is not placed at the top, in a dominant position, but stands on a par with the Saints, and the figures are compressed into a confined space, without the elegant frame of a paradisiacal architecture or landscape to set the mood.
Donatello’s reliefs in the pulpits of the Passion and Resurrection in San Lorenzo probably inspired Rosso in creating the angular and rough effects used for the depiction of male bodies. These have dark faces, deep shadows carved into the flesh, with restless and disturbing looks, accentuated by a marked gesture. These characteristics of exasperated expressiveness of the faces will also recur in later works by Rosso.
However, we must be careful: the accentuation of the shadows under the eyes in Jesus, so unnatural, is actually due to the re-emergence of a “pentimento”, probably corrected when the Saints were modified. There were also other afterthoughts: for example, 4 eyes are visible in the face of the Child.
One cannot remain indifferent to this painting, in front of these stripped and elongated bodies, with almost grotesque faces, that are however accompanied by the sweetness of the little angels in the foreground and by the great chromatic richness with bright and iridescent hues.
Despite the disdain of the Spedalingo, this work is today one of the most important of Florentine art of the sixteenth century, and is now preserved in the Uffizi. And the little angels are considered among the most enchanting images of all Western art.
Art-Test investigated another small delightful work by Rosso of the Uffizi collection: Portrait of a Young Lady, but who knows what one could discover under the Pala!
(Chiara Martine Menchetti)
Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel, by Sandro Botticelli, was last offered at auction at Christie’s London in December 1982 with the title Portrait of Giovanni de Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and it was sold to the New York real estate magnate Sheldon Solow for a then-record £810,0000 ($1.1 million in today’s currency).
Some eminent scholars at that time including the consultant in the Old Master department at Christie’s, held reservations about the attribution to Botticelli, and preferred to credit his less renowned colleague Francesco Botticini as actual painter.
As we read in The Art Newspaper Mr. Solow, the then buyer, to be reassured about the authorship of the painting asked an art historian go to the saleroom and report back to him. The scholar told Solow that he indeed did not know whether it was a Botticelli or a Botticini, but that it in his opinion it was the epitome of a great Renaissance portrait. Solow bought the picture the following day.
This time the painting had a thorough scientific examination dossier, including XRays, IR reflectography, XRFluorescence and more. The name Botticini never came back and Botticelli sold at at almost 9x price time compared to 1982.
May diagnostics take the credits for this?
Work in progress on the Dome of the Florence Cathedral
The night between 26 and 27 January 1601 must have been not so peaceful. A very violent lightning struck Verrocchio’s golden ball that overlooks the dome of the Florence Cathedral, threw it off and dropped it where a plaque still remembers the point of impact. The impression was enormous. It was seen as a clear sign of the incoming end of the world.
But the restoration works immediately followed: the lantern was restored, and already on 21 October 1602, the ball was relocated. Very quickly, considering that the challenges: the total elevation of the entire structure is 116.50 meters, and the ball weighs 18 quintals.
Before the installation of a lightning rod in 1859, the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore had been hit 27 times, with an average of once every 15 years. And such occurrences, as you can imagine, often involved damage to the structure of the lantern.
Details on how to intervene sometimes emerge where you do not expect them. For example in the “Assumption of the Virgin” by Santi di Tito, preserved in the Church of the Carmine in Pisa.
In the preparatory drawing, visible in the reflectograpy made by Art-Test, there is a sort of crane drawn on the right side of the lantern, a crane which then disappears in the finished painting. So we can assume that the crane was visible at the time of the drawing but not when the painting was concluded. This detail could therefore help with the dating both as regards its conception, and therefore the realization of the first underdrawing, and as regards the finished artwork.
But could the crane we see be the one on the lantern following the lightning strike of 1601? The recognizable details of the crane drawn in the painting in question do not allow to recognize the exact typology. We know with certainty that machines with winches and pulleys were already known and used at the time of the construction of the dome
Although Brunellleschi did not leave any descriptions of the machines he used, (which in many cases were invented and custom made), many drawings (among which we show Leonardo’s) show how he made use of cranes, and how these were used, even after his death, by the workers who completed the project. It is also known that, for example, a crane was designed specifically for the lantern. But the drawing made by Gherardo Mechini in 1601 shows a large scaffolding that surrounds the whole structure. So either the Carmine altarpiece was built when the restoration works were over, or it was at the time of another near-end of the world.
Much of what we know about Van Gogh comes from his correspondence, especially with his brother Theo, collected and published posthumously by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, his brother’s widow. In one of the letters, dated January 22, 1886, composed while studying in Antwerp at the Academy, Vincent also writes “… this week I painted a big thing with two nude torsos … two wrestlers”, an exercise probably.
This annotation changed the life of the painting “Vase of Flowers”, later “Still life with meadow flowers and roses”, which experts claimed could not be by Van Gogh, despite the signature, because it was too big and too .. crowded. The signature was also in an unusual position, in the upper right corner. The painting hung for decades in a Dutch museum with an incorrect attribution before the X-ray revealed that it was hiding a completely different subject underneath: a boxing match, and, thanks to the letter, only in 2003, it was recognized. autograph to Van Gogh.
Do you want to have fun combining x-rays and paintings? This couple and others are in our game:
Procida Capital of Italian Culture almost seemed to be an oxymoron. An island, a territory albeit full of history, tradition, very small and on top of it, in the middle of the sea. To apply, knowing that the beautiful postcards with Procida unrivalled landscapes, that have been used by the most renowned brands for years, would not be enough, seemed a gamble. Also because the competition did not require to rattle off own virtues and dowry only, but to go further: to propose a vision of culture that was more attentive to the evolution of human relationships and the environment. The project manager, Agostino Riitano (formerly at the helm of Matera’s candidacy as European Capital of Culture) expressed himself as follows immediately after the announcement: “It was an epochal victory because the commission understood that the Procida project incorporates a paradigm shift of culture in our country, not only large cities of art but also, and above all, the extraordinary cultural heritage spread in small towns. We are convinced that the concept of “minor” contains the prophecy of a change in the country’s cultural policies. During the hearing held on 15 January, visible to all on the MIBACT youtube channel (in Italian), the proposal for the small island was described as “the largest project comes from the smallest place”. Things like these don’t happen by chance, it’s not enough just to have the best professional, but you need to have a long-term vision of the future of your territory, involving at least one generation. Perhaps it is for this reason that the budget that MIBACT makes available (1 million) is not sufficient to cover all the costs that are used to cover the entire project. The ability of the city to make everything sustainable, which is indispensable, is also evaluated.
Thus Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture: “The project is (…) capable of transmitting a poetic message, a vision of culture that extends from the small reality of the island as a wish for all of us, to the country in the months that await “.
Go Procida Go! The fun has just started
Even today, almost a year after the onset of the pandemic, culture does not give up and continues to grit its teeth patiently. The online programming of foundations and museums continues unabated, cultural activities on social networks and on the various sites are increasingly numerous. The hope is to keep interest alive, and increasingly shorten the distances imposed on us by anti-contagion restrictions.
Museums, even when closed to the public, aren’t deserted! Within them, research continues to thrive, as do studies, restorations and all other activities.
Italian Minister Roberto Speranza announced that the museums located in the regions in the Yellow zone can reopen. He illustrated the measures contained in the new DCPM which came into force on January 16th.
The openings are optional.
An autonomous decision to open or close, in a tailored way, enables the directors to manage their “own” museum, since each of them is different and has different needs. In this way, those who consider it viable, both from an economic and a security point of view, can open, assuming the responsibilities of the case, who, on the contrary, consider that it is not the case, will waits.
After all, every museum is different, not all are the Uffizi, there are also small city museums with their own balance sheets, not too stable. A risky opening could compromise their existence. In fact, over the years, museums have been calibrated to function and last with a certain flow of public, of events, which are among the main sources of income, as so are customers of other additional services (restaurants, libraries, guided tours). If the minimum number of visitors is lacking, this machine risks malfunctioning, generating additional costs and unsustainable anomalies.
Perhaps the closure of museums is not a plot or a malice against the world of culture, but only a way to protect it.
(Chiara Martine Menchetti)
It's BREXIT, dear!
January 1 2021 marks not only the beginning of the new year, which hopefully will be better than the horrendous 2020, but also the beginning of a new era for Great Britain which, after 47 years, has left the European Union. This means that the UK is now a “third country” for the EU.
Despite the Christmas agreement between London and Brussels, it is now necessary to introduce a large number of extra obligations, such as customs declarations, special licenses, certifications, controls and conformity tests, for goods to be imported and exported from the UK.
The first problems already arose immediately after the transition period, during which for six months, Great Britain suspended the introduction of controls from the European Union – a unilateral decision that the old continent did not reciprocate.
The procedures to be followed have not yet been clarified, as well as the prices of shipments.
What is certain, is that unlike what happened so far, the goods moving between Great Britain and the EU will undergo more accurate customs, regulatory and security controls, with longer bureaucratic procedures and obviously great delays.
This caused great problems even with the air transport of works of art. In many cases, in fact, the certification that declares the contents of the inside of a box is no longer sufficient, but these are examined and x-rayed as soon as they enter English territory, or worse still, opened by officials with no experience in handling them. This is not a small problem since in some cases the content has a great value and the damage could be irreversible.
Many gallery owners have been provident, and to avoid these inconveniences they have protected themselves by invoicing and shipping all the works to the UK before the end of the year 2020.
But there is no doubt that the current block on the circulation of goods will have a strong economic impact on the medium and long term, on transport, as well as on the economy of the art market, and I believe it is urgently necessary to find solutions soon that guarantee the correct application and interpretation of the rules, if they do not want Great Britain to move from a preferential hub to one excluded from the circuit.
While it seems that Paris is gearing up to take up former UK place.
(Chiara Martine Menchetti)
Never have paintings raised more doubts on authenticity than those attributable to Amedeo Modigliani.
Even when they are signed, with flawless provenance, doubt lingers.
For years, a painting hwas accepted as authentic only if accompanied by the expertise of very few “connoisseurs”, very often without any scientific dossier or, if existing, only self-referential.
The opinions pronounced by these “names”, even with a faint voice, could, and did, decree the fortune or oblivion of a painting.
Modigliani’s paintings have for years been the subject of studies, sometimes even pseudo-mathematical, on the proportions of the faces or the precise distance of the eyes. But the parameters to establish an authentic Modigliani are still unclear or in any case considered the prerogative of very few. Creating a monopoly that is everything but transparent and scientific.
However,, perhaps also thanks to the many scandals, the situation is changing. Soon there will be a new database to study, new reference elements!
For the first time, the investigations on a substantial number of Modigliani will be presented in an exhibition, and they will be shared.
Thanks to a powerful diagnostic campaign carried out by C2RMF on 27 paintings, including two copies, and three sculptures, all from public collections, the secrets of Modi’ will be disclosed.
We will be able to dive into diagnostics during the exhibition that will open next February (hopefully), and to listen carefully to what will be discussed during the Symposium on March 17-18.
Starting with Antonia (in the image a collage of the investigations).
After 2020, the unfortunate year dedicated to Raphael on the 500th anniversary of his death, we are ready to embrace 2021 which in Italy, and around the world, will be the year of Dante’s celebrations, seven hundred years after the death of the great poet. It will be a year full of exhibitions, theatrical productionsmeetings, readings and conferences to which it will be possible to participate online, if not live, to celebrate Dante and the art of his time.
Although the scholastic definition of the Middle Ages as a “dark period” is widespread, we can confidently assert that art in Florence at the time of Dante was anything but dark! It was dazzling in its colors and extraordinarily flourishing in its many variations: from painting on wood to sculpture, from wood carving to mosaic decoration, from miniature to goldsmithing. An art rich in secular and profane symbolism, where form and content became one to convey concepts through images.
Art–Test had the pleasure of participating in the study of the cenotaph of Guillaume Bertand de Durfort, French count of Artois, who came to Italy as a military tutor and advisor to Aymeric de Narbonne at the service of the King of Naples Charles II of Anjou. He fell during the famous battle in the Campaldino plain, to which Dante himself took part.
The Count’s remains were brought to Florence and buried in the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, given the spiritual link between the leader and the newborn Order of the Servants of Mary. The work, attributed to an artist of Byzantine culture, is characterized by a sober and fully absorbed classicism, by a broad definition of the expressive yet impassive face and by the elegance of the molded frames. And, speaking of art dazzling in colors, it is interesting to note that diagnostic investigations revealed that the work was originally polychrome!
In this case we report about a small piece, but only in its size! It is a painting depicting a “Jesus Christ with the crown of thorns and the cross” owned by a private Catalan collector, previously attributed to El Greco’s workshop or to one of his pupils. The study conducted over two years by the Study Center of Modern Art (Caem) at the University of Lleida allowed for the work to be attributed to the hand of the master El Greco.
We couldn’t help but think of a “piece” that Art–Test had the honor of studying: the “San Giovanni Evangelista and San Francesco d’Assisi” in the Uffizi! The non-invasive, but in any case “in-depth” analyzes, also in this case allowed us to attribute the work to Master El Greco, as we describe here!
The recent discovery of YInMn Blue, even if the pigment is extremely expensive (€ 148.52 for 40ml), is a joy for artists – always among the first ones to welcome new findings-, but also for art scientists!
In fact, the analysis of the pigments used has always been very useful for establishing the dating and provenance of a painting.
Lapis Lazuli, for example, is a medieval invention. Theophilus who wrote his treaty in 1120, does not mention it: his blue is azurite, while Cennino Cennini knows it well.
But the Lapislazuli loses its purity in oil painting. Therefore it also loses part of its charm and its use reduced over time, as the new medium imposed itself.
However, outside Italy it was already very uncommon. Few, in fact, could afford it. One was Dürer, who however complained a lot about its price (100 times that of the other pigments)!
For centuries, the Azzurri remained luxury items. Smalt and Verditer blue were not expensive, but the only, mild, alternative to the shade of Lapis was Indigo.
The situation changed around 1705, when Prussian Blue was discovered. It had a great success, but it could still not really replace Lapis.
Although Cobalt Blue had been discovered in 1802, it was Goethe, incredibly, who suggested that as blue deposits were found in the Italian lime kilns, and perhaps some similar procedure could be studied to synthesize an artificial Lapis Lazuli.
In 1842, the Société d’Encouragement per l’Industrie Nationale offered a prize of 6,000 francs to whoever produced it first. Once a stable formulation was found, around, 1870 Cobalt blue became the standard blue color, used by everybody.
Nevertheless, even if 1935 brought with it two new pigments: Monastral Blue and Manganese Blue, the perfect blue had not yet been invented.
The painter Yves Klein between 1945 and 1955 turned to a producer, convinced that they could do better. He thus patented the International Klein Blue, where, however, the real novelty is the binder. We now have the new YInMn Blue.
And the history of art continues to go hand in hand with that of technology.
“In the past century, and at the beginning of this one, dealing with Botticelli would have seemed madness”, wrote Symonds, a great scholar, specialist of the Italian Renaissance, in 1877. And in 1895, Bernard Shaw followed, among others: “Today ten acres of Carracci, Giulio Romano, Guido, Domenichino and Pietro da Cortona, would not buy an ounce of Botticelli, Lippi or Giovanni Bellini”. And in fact it was only at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that there was an abundant traffic of Botticelli’s works, at gradually increasing prices – and of course also of fakes, including documented ones by Joni.
However, original, exceptional works were also sold. For example, the Bardi family, heirs of the commissioners, sold the Santo Spirito altarpiece (Pala Bardi), now in Berlin.
Pala Bardi, Botticelli
Primitives were very popular, and people came to Tuscany to admire them, study them and buy them (the Horne museum, after all, was born this way).
And today? Botticelli are very rare in the market. Are they still so desirable? Or has taste changed?
This is what we will see on January 28 at Sotheby’s, where a very intriguing painting is auctioned. “The portrait of a young man with a roundel” is in fact per se a puzzle. Who is he? Why is he holding this small portrait cut from a more than a century older painting?
The closest Botticelli painting we know is the “Portrait of a Young Man with a Medal” from the Uffizi. This medallion is also a “foreign body” embedded in the artwork.
Portrait of a Young Man with Medallion, Botticelli
The investigations on the work at auction (rather complete, with a dossier very similar to the one that Art–Test offers to our customers) refers of an unusual adhesive that is located at the edges of the roundel, and therefore it cannot be said with certainty that the composition we see today was originally so. Maybe he too originally had a medal in his hand?
Is it one of the Botticelli brothers who were goldsmiths, portraying their products? Was they who created the medallions with Cosimo?
In fact, the “sitter” of the Portrait of the Uffizi is also unknown. And, given the similarity with Botticelli’s self-portrait of the Pala with the Adoration of the Magi, the hypothesis of a brother has been advanced.
If it is not his brother, we have an idea. He is an ancestor of John Travolta.
With a crescendo reminiscent of Zimmer’s musical pieces, in recent years we have increasingly heard, read and defined the word: sustainability.
In the beginning it seemed to be almost something elitarian but it turned out to be quite the opposite.
So what does sustainable mean for us? Is culture sustainable? Should it be?
Perhaps the time has come (although admittely talking about time in this period is actually a bit weird) to address this topic and try to understand how culture can be be part of a sustainable economy.
That is, an economy that safeguards the earth’s resources.
One of the Goals indicated by the UN 2030 Agenda is: “Providing quality, equitable and inclusive education, and learning opportunities for all.
We would like to briefly reflect on this.
In our opinion, when a society manages to make culture accessible to all, it creates a future of people capable of actively contributing to global sustainability.
Even more, only if this role for culture is recognized, it will be possible to have a virtuous circle that will see investments in this sector coming also from other parts of the economy, aware that it is the humus that feeds a sustainable future.
It will be the multiplier of every action aimed at the well-being of a community. If we think about it, this reflection is also the primitive thought that led to the creation of the European Cities of Culture.
The cultural programs presented in these occasions are the implementation of that virtuous circle we mentioned before. Culture is the beginning and ultimate end of living the community well, and therefore of contributing to the evolution of the world economy, which increasingly needs to continue in a sustainable way.
In recent years, for all Italian and European cities the sustainability of the projects presented was the keyword for the feasibility of it.
For all of them there was a new renaissance.
Art diagnostics is, among other things, an outpost for the protection of cultural heritage. The case we are presenting here is one of the many we have treated. Not all of them become public, and they do not all end in court.
In France legislation imposes to destroy fake paintings. Perhaps this is too extreme. But the damages that a fake painting can do to the buyer, to the understanding of the esthetic of a painter and to the market, iare vast.
Who wants to have a fake Picasso circulating the market?
Years ago we received a painting presented to us as by Picasso. During the first Scientific Condition Report we highlighted inconsistencies, despite the painting having deceived even scholars and the members of the commission of the Export Office of the Superintendence of Turin.
Thus, we were asked to deepen the analysis with a complete diagnostic campaign, both with non-invasive and micro-destructive investigations: multispectral analysis, infrared reflectography, radiography, color analysis with XRF, and with chemical analysis on micro-samples.
All the elements of the painting were evaluated, even the frame on which it was anchored and the labels on the back. All of course in concertation with the study of the Picasso’s technique and way of working.
After having realized that something is wrong, it is in fact necessary to recognize which ones are the irrefutable evidences that the artifact is an intentional forgery.
In our world the word “false” has multiple declensions, nuances, not always totally negative: e.g. a work even if it is not to be attributed to a given author, may still be of the same period, produced at the same time, and have a consistent value.
In other cases paintings are sometimes incorrectly indicated as false when they are “academy exercises”, in this case they are in fact better defined as “copies”.
This time, however, we were confronted with an “intentional forgery”, that is, an artifact created and placed on the market with the sole purpose of defrauding a possible buyer.
The painting we are talking about is El Pintor, signed “Picasso”.
Following the diligent work of the Carabinieri Protection Unit, on 2 August 2019, the investigation work conducted was disclosed. Investigation and process that led to identify those responsible for the scam.
Of course, the advice is always to proceed with the analyzes before purchasing. And also this time our motto (originally by Leonardo) falls perfectly: “it is better a small certainty than a big lie”.
Galleries, concert halls, exhibitions have been mostly off-limits since March, with some rare exceptions.
And what will they do now, in this holiday period that usually sees them as protagonists?
Over the past few months they have shown admirable resilience. Conferences, guided tours, presentations, vernissage, exhibitions, much has been online, available for free from home, comfortably sitting on an armchair.
However, very little has been done for Christmas.
Some exhibitions can be visited online, such as the Tiepolo exhibition at Gallerie di Italia in Milan, which attempts a new format, specific for this type of use. Most of the largest museums have an online tour available
And then there are the scheduled conferences, for example those of the Uffizi, which continue in remote mode, but no one seems to have dedicated real events to this period.
Perhaps not everyone has the skills or the budget to continue to produce attractive online material. Apparently after an initial boomh, the visualisations have gone down significantly over time.
Maybe they expected to be able to get back to normal for the festive season. Perhaps it is an economically unsustainable model in the long run.
But will be so the remote visits like “Christmas at Home with Monet” that Linea D’Ombra is organizing for a fee?
Or the Gala’s organised but the San Carlo theatre in Naples? Or the
Handel and Haydn Society: Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, at the Met in New York.
The art world is rethinking itself, and it is not only a necessary, but also an interesting exercise.
But undoubtedly we lack the physicality of visiting the Museum or Exhibitions.
It will be a less beautiful Christmas.
“One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye “, said the fox to the Little Prince according to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
But the “essential” protagonist of our story is visible and is visible above all to diagnostic investigations such as reflectography, radiography, x-ray fluorescence and dendrochronology. We are talking about The Holy Family created by Jacob Jordaens which was exhibited for about sixty years in the offices of the city planning councilor of Saint Gilles (one of the 19 municipalities that make up Brussels) and considered a copy.
When, as part of the recent inventory campaign promoted by the Brussels Region, the painting was detached from the wall, it was possible to appreciated what was never seen before, first of all the presence of the trademarks of the panel. It was therefore decided to subject the work to in-depth scientific investigations, with the result of being able to attribute the work to the hand of Jordaens and to set the year 1615 as the date of realization. The same composition was replicated by Master in three more paintings, currently exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Alte Pinakotek in Munich.
The Brussels’ work will be restored and then exhibited in the Old Masters section of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.
Who knows how many other unrecognized treasures adorn the waiting rooms of offices and buildings? What a teasing question!
Up to 10 pairs of Paintings and their Xray images are waiting for you to match them! Do you know their secrets? For each match you will get their stories.
We also love the virtual tours, the lessons, the interviews, the insights that museums and cultural institutions are publishing online.
But we would like to dispel a doubt. These videos are produced in an attempt to keep the cultural world visible.
Many videos are interesting, some illuminated, almost all enriching
With a digital platform it is possible to attract the attention of a considerable number of spectators.
However, this is does not mean it is the solution to keep this sector alive.
Art historians, conservators, and art diagnostic specialists went on stage during these months of closure in an attempt not to be forgotten, but they want to continue to do what they do best, ie. their profession, and they want this work to be appreciated and valued.
The art world is suffering, and we are not too sure competing with Netflix has any chance to succeed.
The papers presented at Florence Heritech, a scientific conference on restoration and diagnostics of cultural heritage, have been published in the IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering journal.
A great opportunity for those who missed the event, to still browse through them.
Art-Test contributed with a work that paves the way for the scientific testing not only of artworks, but also of the diagnostic images that are used in the attribution process (See publication, and video).
Of the many contributions presented, we highlight the work of Pier Giorgio RIGHETTI – honorary professor of the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta”, of the Politecnico di Milano: “What Sherlock Sorely missed: The EVA Technology for Cultural Heritage Exploration“, which presents the results of a new investigative method. It is a functionalized film that can be used to capture all materials present on a surface without damaging it in any way.
With this new non invasive diagnostic method, iconic items were analised: Bulgakov’s manuscript of Master and Margarita, where traces of morphine have been found, and the shirt worn by Anton Chekhov at the time of his death, where tuberculosis bacteria were found.
But more spectacularly than that, the surviving documents of the plague of 1630, preserved in the historical archive of Milan, were also analyzed. And even centuries later, Yersinia pestis bacteria were still detected.
Another example presented is George Orwell‘s letter discovered in the Russian state archive, on which, although it was typewritten, the bacteria of the tuberculosis he contracted weeks before in Barcelona, were still present.
A fascinating studio that will surely lead to more exciting surprises!
Raphael's new pigment
It could be the soundtrack to this news, or, maybe, “Blue eyes, baby’s got blue eyes, like a deep blue see on a blue, blue day!” as Elton John sang in the early 1980s and again in the Premium subscription of many of us
You probably thought you knew him well. He was the subject of your studies in high school and later at university too, perhaps in a nice monographic course. It is the kind of artist who you look for in exhibitions and museums, that excites everyone and puts everyone in agreement. Can we, then, say that we know him well? No!
Art never ceases to amaze us and, if we often have to thank the archives and their finds, just as often we have to do so with the diagnostic investigations that today reveal Raphael as the “inventor” of the first artificial pigment in history!
This is how things went: in the midst of the “Roman period”, between one commission for Pope Gulius II and the other, Raphael works for Agostino Chigi in what will later be known as Villa Farnesina. Let us stop on the ground floor, in front of the fresco that represents the nymph of the sea, Galatea, triumphant, driving a chariot in the shape of a scallop and surrounded by a procession of marine deities and lovebirds. Well, the analyses on the work tell us that Raphael’s immersion in mythology and ancient art, which he loved and knew deeply, not only inspired him in the conception of the scene, but also in experimenting with the pictorial technique. Raphael recreates the so-called “Egyptian blue”, a pigment that had disappeared at the end of the Roman Empire because it was supplanted by the lapislazzuli. He then uses it everywhere: we find it in the sky, in the sea and in the dreamy eyes of the nymph.
Five hundred years after his death, he seems to have still much to say… and scientists to investigate…… the search continues!
When in 1507 the Raphael‘s Baglioni Altarpiece was placed on the altar of San Matteo in the Church of San Francesco al Prato, in Perugia, no one would ever have imagined that about 100 years later Cardinal Scipione Borghese would have craved its possession so much to commission its theft. Robbery that, following the riot of the Perugians, in a few days became a “voluntary donation” by the friars, immediately ratified by Scipione’s uncle, Pope Paul V.
At the time of the crime, in 1608 Raphael’s art, the Baglioni Altarpiece and the subject of the central altarpiece, “The Transport of Christ“, still enjoyed great fortune. Therefore, many copies had been made over the years.
Two of these are now preserved in the National Gallery of Umbria.
Although of the same size (184 × 176 cm), and equal to the original one, which is now in the collection of the Galleria Borghese in Rome, the Perugian copies were made at different times and on different media.
A copy on wood was made in 1554, when the original was still in its initial location, by Domenico Alfani, a friend of Raphael, in collaboration with his son Orazio. The panel was destined to the church of Sant’Agostino, also in Perugia.
The other copy, instead, on canvas, is attributed to Cavalier d’Arpino, and dated 1609, considering that it was commissioned by the cardinal to compensate the city for the deprivation of the original.
On both of these two copies, Art-Test Firenze performed with the Vis-IR scanner Infrared Reflectography on the entire surface. Thanks to the particular flexibility of the instrumentation, and to excellent coordination with the restorers and art historians of the National Gallery of Umbria, we were able to complete the works in just two consecutive days.
The reflectographic campaign, returning the image of the preparatory drawing, will be used by scholars to study the theme of “copies”, evaluating the methods of execution, through similarities and differences between them and with the original, that was also recently investigated and restored. All of this was to be on display at the exhibition, currently canceled for the closing period due to COVID19, entitled “The fortune of Raphael’s Pala Baglioni through its copies”.
We hope it will be rescheduled soon!
The case of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne is very topical, with the exhibition “Russian Avant-garde at the Ludwig Museum: original and fake. Questions, research, explanations“, which sees works certified as authentic (for example by Kazimir Malevich and Natalia Goncharova) alongside others whose attribution was rejected by the museum’s researchers, following an investigation campaign diagnostics carried out on each artwork.
It is interesting to note the participation of other museum institutions, such as the Momus Museum in Thessaloniki and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, which have lent some pieces from their collections.
The emergency of Covid-19 has unfortunately led to the suspension of the exhibition until 30 September, which for the moment remains scheduled until 3 January 2021.
The exhibition scheduled at the House of European History in Brussels Fake for Real, A History Of Forgery And Falsification is also temporarily closed, but scheduled until next October 2021.
“In the routine of daily life, the sensational, spectacular and supernatural are sweet seduction. They allow us to escape the ordinary. But the game of deception is only fun when we have agreed to it. When we are deliberately deceived, we are on the losing side in many regards, losing our money, credibility, integrity or even our existence”
We hope that it will be possible to return to visit museums soon and soon and that they will remain a beautiful example of historical-artistic and technical-scientific research finally “exhibited” together!
It goes without saying that the certainty of authenticity is an indispensable prerequisite for a work of art and is what allows the collector, in some cases together with a certain amount of valerian, to sleep soundly.
We can only imagine how abrupt the awakening of the buyer must have been, when he, ten years after the purchase of a tapestry by Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994) on Telemarket Spa, discovered he had a fake in his hands!!
When it could be estimated between € 350,000 and 500,000 as in last Christie’s auction.
Before you begin to look with suspicion at the portrait of a gentleman that you now exhibit in the room and to doubt the Fabergé egg that you keep in the cabinet, we inform you that there can be a happy ending, at least in litigations, as it has happened in this case.
However, the advice we will never tire of giving you, is to request a valid authentication and a complete diagnostic file before purchasing!
The picture from private collection, “The temptations of St. Jerome“, attributed to Giorgio Vasari, a brilliant painter, architect, historian and biographer of the Italian Renaissance, was sold at auction at a world-record price for the artist of 800,000 euros.
A great satisfaction for the auction house, and a supposedly good time for ancient art, even one should consider that this selling price is still around 16% of, for example, the 5 million euros paid for “Black Ground (Deep Light)” by contemporary artist Julie Mehretu. (Don’t you know her?)
Vasari’s painting, on whose autography none appears to have doubts, is accompanied by a free circulation certificate, and therefore can be exported outside Italy. We therefore do not know if it will remain in the country.
The painting is identical in its subject and size to the one exhibited at the Galleria Palatina in Florence, that Art-Test studied in 2010, during its restoration.
Given the almost perfect overlap of the version at auction with that in the public collection, a comparative study would have been interesting, a reflectographic survey, for example, to establish which of the two versions was the first, and to investigate the adherence to the execution methods in which Vasari excelled.
Art-Test, in fact, had the pleasure of investigating many paintings by this extraordinary artist, and admiring, in addition to his sublime inventions, the extraordinary technical ability of himself and of his atelier.
Trump will leave the White House and hopefully he is packing his lies and anti-scientific attitude.
How about his art? He loves fakes to bits.
He is known for having a phony Renoir in his apartment (formerly on his plane), and having raided the France’s ambassador residence taking a Benjamin Franklin bust, a Franklin portrait and a set of figurines of Greek mythical characters.
However, they were also fakes. The figurines date to the early 20th century and were made by Neapolitan artist Luigi Avolio, simulating a 16th or 17th centuries style.
After White House art curators examined the pieces, also the Franklin bust appeared to be a replica. The Franklin portrait snagged from Paris was also a copy of the one by Joseph Siffred Duplessis painted in France in 1785, which now hangs in the Oval.
Instead, he did not want to buy an original Andy Warhol, that the pop art artist made for the Trump tower: it did not match the colour scheme.
So we though it could be now the right moment to offer him this authentic masterpiece.
Go Kamala Go!
Armine Harutyunyan was recently addressed as the “ugly” Gucci model and violently attacked.
This was certainly not the judgement that Laura Battiferri received five centuries ago.
The important nose did not frighten Bronzino when he wanted to portray her, and, evidently, she did not have a problem with it either.
The profile brought her, a poetess, closer to the great Dante. So did the book that she elegantly holds in her hands: it refers to Petrarch (and to her first name).
Laura Battiferri, in fact, the legitimate daughter of a noble prelate from Urbino, had received a humanistic education and, at the time of the portrait, was an esteemed literary woman, with access to the cultured circles of Renaissance.
Married for the first time and widowed, she remarried in 1550 with Bartolomeo Ammannati, an appreciated sculptor and architect. She regularly frequented Michelangiolo, Benvenuto Cellini, Benedetto Varchi, Annibal Caro and other Florentine intellectuals, and was in correspondence with other poetesses, such as Lucia Bertani from Bologna and Laura Terracina from Naples.
Laura never had children, but a very successful marriage.
She published her first volume with Giunti in 1560 and was admitted to the prestigious Accademia degli Intronati in Siena. Her fame crossed borders and she was known from Madrid to Prague.
Bronzino’s portrait of her is of poignant beauty, but it is not the only one. There is another one by Alessandro Allori in San Giovannino degli Scolopi in Florence.
While she was collecting all her verses for the third book Rime, Laura dieds, at almost 66 years of age. She was buried in the church of San Giovannino.
On the request of Bartolomeo, inn “Christ and the Canaanite” Allori represents l’Ammannati as Saint Bartholomew and, on the right side of the Canaanite woman, Laura is seen as an elderly matron, still with a book in her hands, but this time a religious volume.
Bronzino’s painting is kept in the Palazzo Vecchio Museum in Florence, where it is exhibited together with all the works of the Loeser donation (i.e. the bequest to the municipality of Florence by the American art historian Charles Loeser).
Stay tuned, more news soon!
Have you ever wondered if art today is truly free, if it is truly democratic or if it makes distinction between sexes?
Making art is in all probability one of the oldest profession, and the presence of women in this area has been documented since a long time, certainly centuries. However, women artists have only recently been able to feel confident in signing their artworks. And only in the last few years they have they received some recognition, although still not commensurate with the real female presence and talent.
Why do women still have to work so hard to see their value recognized?
Discrimination is a real problem. How it is possible that, even today, in this society, there is still a strong gender discrimination?
What is certain is that investing in a woman is a gamble and the data speak for themselves: the female presence in the art market has discomforting numbers, just glimpse through at “The French Culture” by Morineau: “women are taken into consideration by galleries much less than men. In the twentieth century, most of them did not have a gallery to represent it and, even today, the works that bear a female signature have a much lower value than those of men (between 16-30% less)” .
If you go to visit a museum, you will immediately realize that most of the works on display are by male authors: according to a 2019 study by the Public Library of Science, in the permanent collections of most important US museums only 13% of artworks are by female authors.
Moreover, data show that, in the primary market, female artists represent only 44% of the artists exhibited in galleries. It is frustrating, considering that the number of female graduates from art schools far exceeds that of males. As for the secondary market, the situation is even more disastrous; in 2019 the works of female artists sold at auction represented only 7% of the total and 6% of the total turnover.
Why is it so?
Numerous studies like, “Glass ceilings in the art market” (2018, Bocart, Gertsberg and Tilburg) highlight the enormous difficulties that women have to face in order to enter the secondary market. Top 0.03% of the art (which corresponds to 40% of the total value of sales) turns out to be completely inaccessible to women. Just to get an idea: in 2019, only 7% exceeds the figure of 1 million dollars and even lower than 5% is the percentage of works that exceeds 10 million dollars.
It is essential to reflect on how necessary it is to re-evaluate the role of women in the artistic world. The first step is to recognise that a gender issue is present.
But what are the reasons for this gap? Why is a man such much favoured over a woman in the market, especially the secondary one?
Educational initiatives for inclusion not only in the art market but in all areas need to take place, because in the end, as always, art is a mirror of society, and a society that discriminates against women cannot be called free or democratic, nor can the art that reflects it.
Have you ever tried to imagine your life without art?
That thing you always thought was frivolous, superficial and superfluous, not your core business, bit of a waste of time, that thing that I may read later, now I don’t feel like it, it is not so important.
The same thing that makes you better, beautiful, cultured people. That pushes you to go to museums, and to distant cities, thta makes you pull out your mobile to take hundreds of photos (which you punctually ruin with big faces with unlikely expressions). The one that makes you gasp and makes your heart sing.
Arguably, art saved us during the first terrible and interminable lockdown, all glued to the screens waiting for a new culture pill. And now? Now nothing … Museums and exhibitions are again closed, in most part of the world, no galleries, no fairs: art has fallen into oblivion, and the sector is struggling, many risk closure.
The phenomenon has a global reach. The Brooklyn museum was forced to sell 12 works from the collection at Christie’s. The paintings offered for sale were by big names like Donato de ‘Bardi, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Gustave Courbet, Corot, Miro’. A new sale is coming.
What will happen to this art? Probably in private hands, someone will have itjust for themselves. And we will (almost) all be a little poorer.
(Chiara Martine Menchetti)
Is art only a matter for good family ladies or unscrupulous forgers? The portrait of the art world in many of the media is polarized around these two scenarios, which are also punctually to be found in Christopher Nolan‘s film.
The movies still amazes with special effects, but bores with unnecessary shootings and even more useless stereotypes about the art world. And the film doesn’t pass the BECHDEL test. To pass the test there must be at least two women talking to each other and their conversation must concern something other than a man. Easy? It must be said that not many films pass the test.Try to think of more than three.
Inheritances never leave us unmoved: they inevitably accompany a passage, they bring with them existential/geographical reflections (who we are, where we come from, where we go… etc. etc.), they disappoint the venal when they do not meet their expectations, especially when horrible cousins come in the way.
We don’t know exactly what emotions are behind the story we are about to tell you, but rediscovering in a house in the department French of Ain a work by Alfred Sisley will certainly have been a nice surprise!
The work, signed and dated 1892, represents a view of Rue des Fossées in Moret- sur- Loing where the artist lived. The painting remained for about 130 years in the home of a descendant family of Alfred Ernst, art and music critic, in turn a relative of the artist Charles Cottet who had exhibited with Sisley in 1890. The painting was auctioned for 250,100 euros. It will also be included in the reasoned catalogue of Sisley’s work by Francois Daulte, soon to be published.
Certainly the signature and the place of discovery are key elements in the study and attribution of a work, but just as certainly it is the diagnostic analysis that helps us to complete the puzzle!
Let’s face it, if we’re part of the big group of mere mortals, our online shopping will probably cover yet another pair of “uncomfortable but I must have them” high heels, yet another beige cardigan that we’re sure won’t be damaged by the wrong washing, as it happened with the previous twenty ones (we’re sure we’ve learned the lesson), some futuristic device to certainly improve the quality of life of the most tech-addict of us, or a lock as heavy as a remorse that will cost us more than the bike itself.
But there is a whole other kind of online shopping that has flourished and spread in these times of pandemic and that seems destined to surprise us again and for a long time: that of online auctions.
Let’s mention perhaps the most striking cases: Sotheby’s, which last June presented, among others, Francis Bacon’s triptych inspired by the Aeschylus Orestea (1981) to which Christie’s responded the following month with the event auction “One: a Global Sale of the 20th Century” including Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude with Joyous Painting (1994) and just last October 6, during the evening auction “20th Century” there was “Nature Mort avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier”, presented as Cézanne‘s largest watercolor on auction in recent decades, sold for 28.6 million dollars.
The virus has not affected the passion of collectors, indeed the market seems to enjoy excellent and excited health! Now more than ever is evident the decisive role of the diagnostic dossier that must accompany each work in order to feel safe buying on-line. Art is something we like to invest in!
And, suddenly, the beige sweater has lost all its charm. Let’s get him off the wishlist, come on.
P.S. Was it foreseen by the recent Nobel Laureates who won the prize for economy?
At the long-awaited Florence Heritech conference, Art-Test in collaboration with two departments of the University of Florence, with S.T.Art-Test, and with the National Optical Institute of the CNR, will present “Forensic Imaging for Art Diagnostics. What evidence should we trust?“.
The work presents the first results on the scientific analysis of the integrity of diagnostic images, and in particular X-rays images.This is a relevant topic since more and more often these imagines are, rightly so, used to support or dismiss an attribution. This is a totally new subject that is being addressed for the first time in the scientific literature. For this year the conference will be held online from 14 to 16 October, and the proceeding, subject to rigorous review by experts, will be published by IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, an indexed journal, and as always, in open access mode, therefore accessible to all.
We will miss direct interaction with other participants but we hope that this format will allow a good number of people to follow remotely. Don’t miss it! The event calendar will be announced on October 14th here
The longstanding question regarding the authentication of artworks, both old master and modern ones, is always relevant. Even today, no shared scientific protocols have been established, so to start a correct discussion on this topic. Not later than last week, this problem became clear again at auction.
Two paintings declared “FOLLOWER OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS, about 1700”, had already been sold six months ago by the same gallery but with a different attribution: “CICLE OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS” were auctioned.
What has happened in the last six months that got the paintings from being a “workshop” to being a “copy” of the following century? Moreover, the same two artworks eleven years ago were offered by another large auction house for a double estimate. How can this happen? What information was added between one auction and another?
The Condition Reports which are generally published –same here- report only the conservation conditions, observed rather superficially.
The provenance only rarely adds decisive information on the autograph. As indeed this is the case this time as well. We wonder why it is not explicitly stated in the catalogue if any type of analysis has been performed that has implied consequences for the attribution. One could think of analyses performed showing an anachronism in the materials used, or a C14 on the wooden support.
A Condition Report enriched with Radiography, Reflectography and colour analysis would have clarified many doubts.
Especially at a time like this, where auction houses only offer online sales, it would be appropriate to offer works with more detailed curricula, also enriched with elements that the human eye cannot perceive. This could offer complete transparency, a de-risking for the investment and therefore an incentive to buy. Who would buy with closed eyes?
The day after is about to arrive. What will change in the art world?
Il Giornale dell’Arte dedicates an insert to the reopening.
136 contributions from museum directors, superintendents, foundations directors but also gallery owners, auction house managers and publishers. All aware that the return to normality will not mean restoring the same status quo of March 8.
Let us comment on it together. What has changed in the meantime? During the Coronavirus explosion, “digital” has had space.
In these almost 70 days, many museums have offered virtual visits and digital contributions. Also as regards the art market, which saw the cancellation of fairs and events, the digital response was immediate. Galleries and auction houses have changed physical appointments into digital appointments: online auctions, and other tools for the most demanding customers, with dedicated virtual environments.
Will digital continue to be massively used even after the end of the quarantine?
Minister Dario Franceschini spoke of a possible portal, such as Netflix, where it will be possible to publish original content, not freely shared on other sites or social pages. Cultural products on payment.
So far, everything was all for free. We are back to the question how culture should be accessible to everyone. Nevertheless, it is useless to hide that the idea of a culture accessible to everyone is probably not sustainable. For a time still not defined, and definable, the cultural sector, firmly linked to the tourism sector, will have limited resources. Especially small businesses.
However, we would like to reiterate that making culture is not at no cost, not even for the digital part. Behind any contribution published in recent months, there are hours of work of many professionals, who have invested in accelerating spreading the understanding of the digital language with their work. They can’t work for free forever. If these digital contents are truly the solution to attract and communicate with possible visitors, and return back to surplus, they must be recognized for the value they have, avoiding to think of them as pastimes. Or accessory tools at best.
Now is really time to create a new future for culture, and to recognize the creation of content for digital use, the space and resources they deserve. An evolution and growth opportunity for the cultural system.
Let’s see if we can take it!
Illicit trafficking in works of art to finance terrorism, money laundering, hidden financing.
“Organized crime has many faces,” added Catherine de Bolle, Europol’s executive director. “The trafficking of cultural goods is one of them: It is not a glamorous business run by flamboyant gentlemen forgers, but by international criminal networks. You cannot look at it separately from combating trafficking in drugs and weapons: We know that the same groups are engaged, because it generates big money.”
Moreover, even in the consultation of the European Commission for new actions against money laundering, launched to collect input from all citizens, but above all from the most interested parties, there are art dealers in the list of involved stakeholders.
It is evident that for art dealing it is considered necessary to introduce greater control, to make the art market more transparent. However, the value of artworks is inevitably conditioned by their authenticity, which affects the profits that can be made from them. Or by their alleged authenticity. And the absence of shared protocols for certification of works of art leaves much room for maneuver.
Something needs to change
Selfie” in 2013 was elected as “word of the year”, and still maintains its place in the vocabulary. Selfies are not just an ephemeral fashion and it doesn’t matter if the first assonance is with selfish. Being is sharing and if you don’t share, you are nobody.
Art often ends up being just a background. And more than enjoying the moment, it appears a spasmodic anxiety of showing that moment in which we are ourselves in front of that important monument. Works of art and more or less famous architectures are often perceived only as an impressive scenography, and the time of the visit is consumed in a few quick gestures: framing, shooting, posting.
It is, clearly, a transitory, ephemeral moment: the sharing of our selfie becomes the essential part, the place where it is done becomes secondary, however fascinating or famous is the location, it all boils down to a paradoxical and grotesque snapshot in which the viewer becomes an integral part of the work of art, as protagonist, of course.
What is needed is to attract attention, and the only requirement concerning the artwork is that it has to be photogenic, amazing, in short, “instagrammable”.
But this has also a positive side. In fact, this ever more pervasive need to show the place where we are, feeds curiosity and more and more “influencers” are attracted by the desire to immortalise themselves right in front of a work of art or monument. This could be a powerful tool for cultural dissemination.
More and more museums, which previously prohibited taking photographs, now are the first to invite and photograph the artworks, invent hashtags to publicise and share news about the exhibitions or the planned events.
This is a different way of bringing more people closer to art. Certainly very direct and effective.
Whether it is artistic or not, therefore, today the “selfie” represents a creative medium to convey culture, together with thoughts, stated of mind, social conditions.
Federico Zeri, one of the most famous Italian art historians (also for having resigned from the Board of Directors of the Getty of Malibu ‘following the acquisition of a Kouros later proved false), a tireless researcher and distinguished populariser, who on his death in 1998 left a gigantic photo library at the University of Bologna, went more than once on the subject of forgery in the art market.
But it is perhaps in the detective story, set in Rome, and published just before his death “F. Zeri-Carmen Iarrera, Mai con i dipinti. Romanzo, Milano, Longanesi, 1997”) that he lets himself go to a confession without havoc on the tongue: rich but arrogant collectors, unscrupulous merchants and conniving professors, thanks to a market without rules and without control, where, however, transitions are millionaires. But he also covers scientific analyses that are able to uncover fakes and forgeries … when they are done by professionals.
Here are some more brazenly impudent excerpts, for those who already know and for those who still dream …
For this reason, trusting their own nose (and the antiquarian who managed to get into their graces), rarely asking for the opinion of an expert, they pay without blinking astronomical sums, with no questions asked, satisfied to have got their hands on any crust that they considered something unique, rare, precious.
They are even more satisfied if you give him the illusion that the painting, kept for centuries in a family of ancient lineage, was on sale for half of its value only because the family was pressured by unpleasant, contingent, ineluctable financial necessities.
Old practice, this of “supporting” a painting. It is actually enough to find a suitable canvas, to have it restored if needed, to find an expert who attributes it to a more or less illustrious painter and to have the complicity of some fallen nobleman who, well oiled, swore that this painting came from the ancient and famous collection of his grandfather or that it was found by chance, after decades of oblivion, in his old aristocratic country residence.
Making a fake from scratch today is very difficult. In paintings, I mean, because for example in sculptures it is easy. It is enough to melt ancient coins to make a beautiful Greek or Roman fragment with a bronze that, of course, will be ancient to all analyses. Or you take a marble bust of good workmanship, save the face and chisel the drapery well, copying, for example, the style of Donatello’s drapery and attributing it to him or his school. Only an extremely skilled eye, at that point, could establish that the sculpture was manipulated. For paintings no. For paintings it is different because quartz lamps or infrared rays do not forgive.
“So you can’t cheat?”
The lieutenant laughed. The one who wants to cheat, cheats anyway. He takes a ruined picture, sometimes even a crust and corrects it to make it appear by another author. Or he manipulates it.
“I’ll give you an example. There is a painting school in Seville. They are all still lives, painted on oblong horizontal paintings. Generally, they represent tables with three groups of objects. A basket of fruit, or say, of loaves, of quinces.
If we have a dishonest merchant he takes the picture, he cuts it in three pieces, takes the basket with peaches, and passes it off as an Italian still life, Lombard, for example of Fede Galizia or Panfilo Nuvoloni, and earns a lot of money.”
“But can’t you see it?”
“Of course you can see. It would be enough to go and look at the margins to discover that the canvas is cut. But who does it?”
“Well. Of course there are those honest and competent, but there are also the so-called experts who are neither this nor that”.
“Most of the so-called experts work in agreement with the antique dealers and promote real poor paintings by attributing them to this and that, producing expert reports full of gaps where, for example, they never specify, and never means never, the conservation status of the object”.
“And is there no control?”
No. Because there is no register of authorized experts. And whoever does an assessment practically does not bear responsibility for it. At worst, he says he was wrong. His or her prestige is at stake, but they do not end up in jail. It would be enough to make a law in which it is established that whoever signs an appraisal is responsible for half of the value attributed to the object and then, yes, we could be certain. Instead, as things are, anyone can write that a crust is a masterpiece. There are certain university professors who do not deny an expertise to no one, and most of the time they do not even pay taxes”.
Part of our job is to visit as many exhibits as possible. This is why we went to Livorno. The city that gave birth to Modigliani, exhibits his works not far from the place where the famous “heads” were found. Goliardic prank that, perhaps, marked the destiny of Modigliani‘s works, constantly questioned on autography.
Just before the exhibition entrance, we find the “comment book”, where the last one catches our eye. The note expresses great disappointment.
Past the cerulean tent, we found a conspicuous group of various artists, with who Modigliani shared not only a few years of artistic life, but also, patrons, like Zborowski, who paid him since 1915, and collectors like Netter. The importance of the Netter collection in the history of Modi’ is particularly evident in this exhibition and this gives a great insight on the market dynamics around Modigliani.
Among all works, our attention is caught by “Hanka Zborowska” (pencil on paper, 42 x 26 cm), and on how the sheet of paper used could be part of a block on which Amedeo drew. In fact, looking at the page in raking light, we can see a tracing mark, due to the pressure of the pencil on the previous sheet, that probably drew a portrait.
The space reserved for Modi’ is the very intimate, perhaps too much, only a fifth of the exhibited works. Leaving this area, we find ourselves again among his contemporaries, belonging to two great collections mentioned in the subtitle of the exhibition, Netter and Alexander
We go out, leaving the cerulean tent behind, and we think back about the comment read about an hour before. In fact, we also experienced a sense of unfinished: the sentence “300 francs a month for the material needed, canvases, colors” mentioned in one of the explanatory panels comes to our mind.
We would have loved to know what canvases, what colors. Crucial information especially for this artist, from whom high and low quality copies are known, and for the moment market goes through. We would have loved if some scientific elements would have been shared, so to share understanding of his technique and therefore his poetry.
As a side note, we, always looking for repentances on the works on display, have discovered some interesting details. We share with you some images, but why not going and verifying directly?
Are you in Paris for these holidays and you have not yet booked the visit to the Leonardo exhibition?
Perhaps not everyone knows that in these very same days at the Galerie Sud-Est du Grand Palais there is a surprising exhibition on El Greco. European painter par excellence, also in his name: half in Spanish and half in Italian but which unmistakably identifies a … Greek, after some battling in various European courts, he ends up in the austere Toledo to exercise a knowingly extravagant art, with a unique technique.
Art-Test was asked to investigate several artworks by him, the atelier and his followers and also the only El Greco painting in the Uffizi collection Saint Francis and San John the Evangelist, recently presented at the conference in Bettona. The artwork was there acclaimed as a certainly autograph work, and it is indeed of excellent quality.
Painter who has visibly inspired so many artists from Cocteau to Picasso, El Greco seems nowadays a little neglected. No one seems to really talk about this exhibition. But he still give some satisfaction in the art market, and for those in search of true art, there is not only the great Leonardo. El Greco is also worth a trip to Paris. Strikes permitting.
The year of Leonardo is about to end, the 500th anniversary of his death.
In Italy mostly ancillary exhibitions have been organized, the biggest event being the great exhibition at the Louvre.
In France, where he spent a couple of years, mostly very sick, and died, they have organized a big celebration. Many works of the Italian genius have arrived in Paris for a blockbuster exhibition whose visit needs to be booked in advance, although it does not seem to offer anything really new.
However, bravely, as Carmen Bambach writes (The Art Newspaper Dec 2019), some of the reflectographies are also exhibited, both of the works on show and also of others, like the National Gallery’s Virgin of the Rocks that now has its own exhibition in London. In that case, thankfully, a number of diagnostic images are presented; however, in a setting that imitates a restoration lab, rather than a diagnostic lab.
The Art Newspaper (Dec 2019) also reports that this was the year with the largest number of publications on Leonardo (more than 250!).
But what have we learned? What do we know more now than a year ago?
Renato Barilli writes on Artribune (Nov-Dec 2019) “no one has accepted my admonition to remove from his safe works at least the Belle Ferronière, of which there is no news in his time, besides the fact of completely contradicting all of the stylistic features that are usually attributed to the genius of Vinci.
For example, to advance studies on this author, it would have been interesting to compare the Xrays images of the Gioconda, the Musico, Saint John the Baptist and the Belle Ferronière (similar in size and support). All the radiographs were published earlier and you can see the comparison now here.
We now await the discoveries concerning the Vitruvian Man promised in two volumes published by Giunti – the first in January – and in a major exhibition that will take place in Cagliari in May 2020 organized by the State Museum of Sardinia, all with the title “The deception of the Vitruvian Man. The algorithm of the divine proportion”. Here the trailer
In fact, there is still a lot to be investigated on Leonardo and, who knows, may 2020 will be the year in which a totally unknown Leonardo will be revealed. Stay tuned!
ARTESTIAMO – seen, read, observed for you – A family … torn to pieces (and then reunited … or almost)
Photo credits: Andrea Gavinelli
The art market is constantly changing. The way of collecting has evolved in recent years, moving away from specialization towards a mixture of genres, seeking for epiphanies and “correspondences of amorous senses”.
The recently concluded Brussels Art Fair (BRAFA) 2019, fully understood this trend.
BRAFA has always been heterogeneous, with twenty different specialties, covering the most diverse areas, from archaeology to contemporary art, and without groupings in sections within the exhibition, (as at TEFAF, for example); last year already, the concept of an eclectic Wunderkammer was on display at BRAFA, thanks to the newcomer Theatrum Mundi. That idea has been the most recognizable figure of the fair this year.
In a time of rapid expansion of horizons, thanks to geographical and scientific discoveries, collecting and showing natural and artificial wonders was the aim of the Renaissance “studiolo”, as much as of the Cabinets of Curiosities, which appeared in the 16th and 17th centuries in high-class families, often a first step towards the establishment of museums.
The desire to flabbergast visitors remains, but the current push seems more to be the desire to mix, a kind of globalization, but also a claim to the right to overturn the hierarchy of classical values and question the division into genres; perhaps a refusal to accept an orderly view of the world that ultimately failed.
The response to the eclecticism of the actual taste at Brafa was to be found in many exhibits who expanded the concept of Wunderkammer proposing, possibly to interest new collectors, many curiosities with affordable prices but with refined taste, different from the contemporary artworks that usually attract the younger audience. But it also echoed in the “room of wonders” filled with the most prestigious pieces ever traded, proposed by the Royal Chamber of Art Dealers of Belgium, to celebrate 100 years since its foundation.
The other remarkable aspect of this edition was the gradual but inexorable path towards contemporary art. Contemporary art galleries, although they still did not outnumber those of ancient art, were bigger and more visible.
The president of BRAFA in recent interviews reported how difficult it is to renew and extend the offer in old masters. Quality candidates in this area appear to be numerically inferior to those of contemporary and modern art. The only exception this year was Sandro Morelli’s Gallery (Italian, based in Florence) a new entry presenting medieval art.
The report published on the website states that Morelli sold a late fifteenth-century Lombard wooden safe, whose price was around 120,000 euros. The report is an interesting read (click on the link to see it), for comparison with the performances of the other exhibitors and in general for the large number of sales occurred, many of a high quality level.
And if the past, the flabbergasting was often due to “famous Hoaxes” (fakes specially fabricated), at BRAFA they currently openly try to avoid the risk of fakes with a vetting commission of 100 experts to cover the various disciplines.
However, in only one case we saw that test results exposed (a C14 analysis to confirm the dating of a 16th century Madonna).
Can the attraction for small objects also depend on the fact that no one wants to risk large sums in assets for which there is no established way to be sure of authorship and therefore of value?
The star of the exhibition is definitely a RUBENS, recently rediscovered, after appearing at Christie’s auction in Paris in 2015, but with an attribution to “Paul de Vos and atelier Rubens”.
A careful eye, and probably a consultation of the “Corpus Rubenianum” where the painting was presented as van Thulden, led Klaas Muller to win the work for 145,000 euros.
Not only Rubens, at the fair, but also Jacob Jordaens, and many other Flemish, along with modern art, where several Legers stand out (we counted at least 6) as a tribute to the exhibition that will soon be open in Brussels, and lots of contemporary art. But also African art, jewelry to turn heads, archeology and design. 10000 objects of all prices from one thousand to one million. We are now waiting to see how successful it has been in terms of sales, but we already saw several dots on the tags.
The 4th edition of the Master in Legal Archeology and Crimes against Cultural Heritage, based in Rome, will begin in March 2018.
This course, organized by the CSC, “Center for Criminological, Legal and Sociological Studies” of Viterbo, in collaboration with the “Osservatorio Internazionale Archeomafie”, aims to prepare professional profiles on the objectives, modus operandi, strategies and dynamics of criminal organizations dedicated to theft and illicit international trafficking of cultural heritage works. Since last year, Art–Test has the pleasure of being part of the teaching staff of the Master, which includes both training meetings, in the classroom and in the field, and individual work of distance learning and research.
From the 2nd edition, part of the teaching focuses on the scientific techniques of evaluation and recognition of works of art; here Art-Test brings its contribution to this course.
In January and November 2017 we spoke about the scientific techniques that can be used for the dating of artistic and architectural assets, and the use of instrumental analysis for the identification of origin and the recognition of fakes.
Art-Test presented several case studies, to demonstrate how these techniques are used in real situations. We have underlined the importance of a correct and careful interpretation of data, which requires both meticulous comparisons between the different types of analyses carried out and the knowledge of each scientific technique. Furthermore, it is essential to formulate a step-by-step diagnostic plan, carefully prepared according to each specific situation.
For more information on this interesting course:
What is the purpose of exhibitions? To lengthen the CV of the curators, or to offer opportunities for in-depth study for everyone, from scholars to simple enthusiasts?
In the case of the exhibition “La Strage degli Innocenti. Manifesto of Raphaelism by Guido Reni “, inaugurated on January 13th and open until February 18th in Aosta, there are no doubts.
The exhibition, organized thanks to the synergy between the Polo Museale of Emilia Romagna and the Department of Culture of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta, has as educational goal, as stated by Superintendent Mario Scalini, in the highest sense of the term.
In addition to the possibility of admiring absolute masterpieces, a study of the implicit and explicit sources used by Guido Reni is proposed, as readable in the artist’s masterpiece and in direct comparison with other works exhibited. A few works, but well explained.
In order to better understand and illustrate Guido’s Raphaelism, a work by Raphael is exhibited (for the first time!): “La Perla di Modena”, accompanied by the diagnostic analyses carried out by Art–Test.
The small tablet, discovered in 2010 in the deposits of the Galleria Estense of Modena, was investigated usingscientific methods, and the results were compared with those of other works by the artist and those related to the Madonna of the Pearl in Madrid. All this is presented with great clarity and objectivity.
If you can not go to Aosta, here is the text of the “Journal of Exhibition”.
Against exhibitions, therefore, as Montanari writes? Absolutely not. And if you go to Aosta, let us know.
The exhibition celebrates a unique and difficult season, marked on one hand by the legacy of the masters, with whom it was impossible to compete, and, on the other hand, by the conclusions of the Council of Trento, imposing new prescriptions on the layout of churches, namely forbidding barriers to divide church members from laymen, and causing to re-arrange the lateral chapels. For them new and grandiose altarpieces were commissioned. The painting subjects had to be sacred episodes easy to understand and characters were to wear modern dresses, for the believers to more easily identify themselves with the stories.
New languages and new techniques emerged too. However, unfortunately, they have not been presented at the exhibition. The diagnostic surveys mentioned are mostly dated and are not displayed. Art-Test, instead, herewith offers you a detail of the reflectography, made on another occasion, of the altarpiece, also present at the exhibition, “Lamentation on Dead Christ” by Pietro Candido (Pieter de Witte, Bruges 1548 – Munich 1628), ante 1586, oil on table, cm 298.5 x 183. Volterra, Pinacoteca and Civic Museum. A splendid and visionary work of an artist born in Flanders, formed in Florence, active in Volterra, and finally famous in Munich at the service of the Duke of Bavaria. Very little underdrawing, very much reworking. Remarkable, isn’it?
If you are interested in the underdrawing of the whole painting, or any other reflectographic investigation we performed, do not hesitate to contact us to check availability and cost.
The “Salvator Mundi”, recently rediscovered and attributed to Leonardo, goes to auction at Christie’s, with an estimated value of about $ 100M. Will it be sold? Will it come back to Italy? With all the spotlights on this painting, someone started playing devil’s advocate, questioning the authorship, pointing to some alleged mistakes in the representation of the orb that Christ holds with his left hand. However, several copies are known similarly representing the orb, moreover it seems that what is not taken into account are the scientific and technical results presented by Dianne Modestini – who directed the restoration –during the conference on the occasion of the great monograph exposition in London in 2012. During her talk, she illustrated how a major part of the painting was damaged and how in the orb area most superficial layers, those building the orb, were lost. Modestini writes in the volume “Leonardo da Vinci’s technical practice” (edited by M. Menu, Hemann editors), about some white touches, probably related to the reflections of an external light, now unfortunately out of context, but also about the typical inclusions of rock crystal, visible in the part covering the hand, that are manically painted and certainly are to be related to Leonardo. So the orb, still the center of discussion, is for her the witness of Leonardo’s hand.
With regard to the materials used, from the 8 samples extracted, a double gesso and glue stratigraphy was visualized for preparation layer, and as far as the pigments are concerned, various types of black, lapis lazuli, red lacquer and white lead and cinnabar for the flesh tones have been identified. And a nice bit of glass probably used as a siccative. All compatible materials and techniques. A curiosity: the background probably was not as black as it is now, but green. Imaging diagnostics then showed some small repentance, for example in the position of the thumb of the blessing hand. Is this sufficient enough to consider it original? Certainly such evidences are more grounded than those relating to alleged stylistic errors in the orb. Art–Test has worked on several Leonardo paintings, such as the “Musician” of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milano (of which diagnostic results were presented at the same conference in London), the Scapigliata and other works attributed to Leonardo, like the Caprotti’s Christ. In fact, we would have expected a more elaborate preparatory drawing. Perhaps we are not alone, and perhaps that’s why experts at Christie’s write about “many big and small changes,” and the “dramatic shift” of the thumb position, with too much emphasis.
(For a comparison click here.)
Art and Science are close in many ways. “Elegance from the East, insights from old porcelain” (Indianapolis Museum of Art, till 22nd October) explores the popularity and variety of Chinese porcelain objects made for export to Western consumers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Chinese artists customized their traditional forms and decoration for European and American commercial tastes. This exhibition reveals the effects of these efforts to translate consumer demand from half a world away.
Like “Chemistry of Color” and “What Lies Beneath”, also on view, this exhibition relates science to art. Guest curator Shirley M. Mueller, MD, connects the past to the present and illustrates, through neuropsychological insights, the similarity of human feeling and motivation across time.
Art-Test has been called to shed light on the matter in a small church near Florence
Who painted the “Pietà di Marcialla”? The issue has been debated for many years, but only on last 9th of May the first analyses were carried out on the wall painting in Santa Maria a Marcialla, a small church on the Florentine countryside.
Despite its remote location, the painting is of remarkable quality and some scholars believe it to be the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. So finally the Municipality of Barberino Val d’Elsa decided to investigate the claim, by promoting objective studies conducted with scientific devices.
Art-Test Florence, in charge of the investigations, during the first survey could confirm the presence of many incisions to be connected with the transferring of the preparatory drawing onto the wall and, moreover, the existence of some “pentimenti” concerning e.g. the lower arm and the left leg of Christ. Furthermore, new details emerged from a first careful examination of the painting, e.g. the depiction of a city walled with towers, located between the Good Thief and Our Lady.
Much more needs investigation. It is not yet clear, e.g., which pictorial technique was used to perform the work, i.e. if is it a real “fresco” or not. Moreover, based on the analyses made so far, it is not certain whether it was painted only by one hand or more painters contributed. This first diagnostic campaign was only the first act of the full scientific campaign that awaits this painting. The town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, by the will of its Mayor Trentanovi, shall support the next studies meant to fully understand the genesis of the work, the adopted art techniques , the material composition of the painting and the possible overlay of more versions. Eager to find out more? So are we! We will keep you up to date!
From June 15th to August 10th, the PALP (Palazzo Pretorio di Pontedera) will host the exhibition “Goya and Guido Reni. Art Treasures at the Palp”. Two intense self-portraits of Goya, one of 1771 and the other of 1782 will be shown to the public after years of specialist study, accompanied by the diagnostic campaign conducted by Art-Test. The scientific data will be given great relevance and the results will be exposed to the audience who will so be invited to participate in the discovery of these intriguing works of art.
These works, after this Tuscan preview, will be exhibited, together with other paintings of the Spanish genius, in 2018 in St. Petersburg at the Hermitage Museum. In Pontedera, the two portraits will also be joined by a painting by Guido Reni, “Susanna and the Oldies”, that belongs to the artist’s mature age.
The exhibition is promoted by the Pontedera Culture Foundation
(http://www.pontederaperlacultura.it/la-fondazione/ or https://www.facebook.com/PontederaperlaCultura/) and the municipality of Pontedera.
An opportunity not to let go!
Is it Michelangelo? Are we on the verge of a new discovery?
Art-Test has been called to shed light on the matter in a small church near Florence
Who painted the “Pietà di Marcialla”? The issue has been debated for many years, but only on last 9th of May the first analyses were carried out on the wall painting in Santa Maria a Marcialla, a small church on the Florentine countryside.
Despite its remote location, the painting is of remarkable quality and some scholars believe it to be the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. So finally the Municipality of Barberino Val d’Elsa decided to investigate the claim, by promoting objective studies conducted with scientific devices.
Art-Test Florence, in charge of the investigations, during the first survey could confirm the presence of many incisions to be connected with the transferring of the preparatory drawing onto the wall and, moreover, the existence of some “pentimenti” concerning e.g. the lower arm and the left leg of Christ. Furthermore, new details emerged from a first careful examination of the painting, e.g. the depiction of a city walled with towers, located between the Good Thief and Our Lady.
Much more needs investigation. It is not yet clear, e.g., which pictorial technique was used to perform the work, i.e. whether it is a real “fresco” or not. Moreover, based on the analyses made so far, it is not certain whether it was painted only by one hand or more painters contributed. This first diagnostic campaign was only the first act of the full scientific campaign that awaits this painting. The town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, by the will of its Mayor Trentanovi, shall support the next studies meant to fully understand the genesis of the work, the adopted art techniques , the material composition of the painting and the possible overlay of more versions. Eager to find out more? So are we! We will keep you up to date!
In the picture the Palmira Arch, destroyed by IS, virtually reconstructed and 3D “printed”. The artwork was exposed before Palazzo Vecchio in Florence during the G7 of Culture Meeting.
We at Art-Test deeply believe in these values, and we hope that art and science will help beauty to save the world.
It is not, and it was not, a common practice to make full size models for statues. But apparently Giambologna (Jean de Boulogne), at the time of this commission for Piazza della Signoria in Florence, was best known for “small” things, and he wanted to immediately silence who did not trust his abilities to work with bigger dimensions.
So he proved himself in large statuary already at the time of presenting a model, et voilat: a giant sculpture 4 meters tall was produced. But how did he do? What techniques and what materials did he use?
In 2013 Art-Test Florence, along with other research organizations and companies specialized in diagnostic applied to cultural heritage, was involved in the campaign designed to provide the complex analyses of the model of the Rape of the Sabine Women, now at the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence, with the objective to answer such questions. The model is in terra cruda, i.e. raw clay, having indeed the same size of the marble work, you can admire the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. However the model is not identical. Do you want to know more? It is now possible to access all the results of diagnostic tests performed and the history of its restoration. They are now all published by Syllables in the book “It ratto delle Sabine e il suo restauro “. Inside it there are notes on the history of the artwork and on the restoration performed. It is not easy to synthesize the amount of information contained in the volume so we invite you to read it and find out how a simple “bozzetto” is actually a work of refined technical inventiveness. Jean de Boulogne really knew his business.
How did polyptichs appear? Was the Byzantine Icon to move to the altar, or was it the antependium? Why from preparing the wooden panels with parchment and two layers of gesso, gilding became limited to frames? What are the roads followed by icons and art objects in their passage from East to West? How was the Platonic-Byzantine concept of the image received in Europe and how was it transferred into the more Aristotelian sphere of Western medieval culture?
“Paths to Europe, From Byzantium to the Low Countries”, edited by Bernard Coulie and Paul Dujardin, Silvana Editoriale, just published, 53rd volume of the Biblioteca d’arte series, tries to answer some the these questions and it is also the summary of a conference held in BOZAR, Brussels in January 2015.
Inside the volume, the article “Under the Gold: a Database of Underdrawings and Material Analyses on Sienese Paintings. Connections and Dissimilarities in Painting Techniques across Centuries and Countries”, presents the peculiarities of Sienese paintings between the twelve and the fourteen centuries. Changes in style but also in the techniques and materials used, emerge from the analysis of the Art-Test database on IR reflectographies, X rays and chemical analyses on 100 paintings of Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena. The passage from the archetypical, not to be changed model of the Byzantine icon to a free hand spontaneous underdrawing, from the gold background imitating goldsmith and from the 7 colours of the Palatinus codex to the oneiric pinks of the Sienese paintings is illustrated. Presenting also how X rays can be studied to understand the function of a painting on wooden panel, the paper exemplifies how changes in style and the messages that the paintings were to convey are closely connected with the evolution of the techniques employed to physically make them.
In the year of Hieronymus Bosch (500 years after his death) to see his works you could go to his hometown, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, (or, as the Dutch say, Den Bosch) in the Netherlands, otherwise in Vienna or Berlin… To buy them instead, you could go to BRAFA, the antique fair in Brussels, where available for sale were the works of one of his followers, Pieter Huys (about 1519-about 1581), and his school (two tablets of 28×38 cm each: “The temptation of St. Anthony”, “St. Christopher”), and an incision ( “Judgment day” from one of his paintings, about 1548-1570). The fair ended on January 29th, with 132 exhibitors from around the world, with a positive trend, growing year after year, as the quality of the works proposed and its attractiveness to buyers. Someone already compares it to the best known TEFAF of the Dutch cousins, with which, however, competes with more “reasonable prices”, in some case even openly exposed to the public. If Bosch is not your thing, you could find a “cassone” from Scheggia (1406-1486), along with remarkable “old masters” and from a large group of Flemish painters, two works of Le Corbusier, three Renoir, four Chagall, Matisse, Pissarro, up to Haring.
We were pleased to note that scientific analyses, especially imaging ones, are increasingly produced to support the painting descriptions, such as in the catalogue of Jan Muller Antiques, where X-rays and reflectography appear.
But still many works could be investigated, to confirm or refute attributions or simply to get to know better the practices of the various workshops. For example by comparing the technique of “Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio” of Van Dijk, now at Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and the version attributed to his circle proposed by Klaas Muller Antiques in BRAFA, or again from the same antiquarian, the specimen of “Hercules fighting the lion”, of which another copy exists at the New York MET! Science, anyone?
Last February 11, the results of the studies on this sensational discovery were presented together with the book “Research in Santa Maria Novella. The fresco of Bruno, Stefano and the others “, edited by Anna Bisceglia, superintendent of the Florentine cultural heritage and published by Mandragora.
Art-Test has been working on one of the three paintings uncovered on the walls of the church, i.e. the one attributed to Bruno di Giovanni, brother of Buffalmacco, depicting San Maurizio captain of the Theban Legion, along with the other martyrs, in a frenzied scene of deep intensity. The martyrs expressions reveal that they know that they are going to die, since they refuse to kill their Christian brethren.
Multispectral images have been acquired in the visible range, in IR reflectography and in UV fluorescence. Such results with XRF investigations, and photomicrographs, determined that the paint is for the largest part, not applied using the frescos technique, but it is a dry painting, that in IR shows an underdrawing. Moreover, on the surface, residues of adhesives have been found, intended for the application of a metallic sheet, especially on the helmets and the armours. The scene on the wall vibrated with the church lighting, with an illusionistic effect that today we can only imagine. (Or a virtual reconstruction could be produced and visualized on the website of Opera Santa Maria Novella, what do you think?)
The trade of fake artworks is a crime. But what is a fake, and how can you recognize it?
Last January 14th Art-Test Florence held a lecture on“TECHNIQUES OF SCIENTIFIC DATING – Artistic and architectural heritage, artworks origin analysis and false works recognition through scientific testing. Case Studies”.
The Master in “Judicial frauds and Crimes against Archaeology and Cultural Heritage” promoted by the Center for Criminologist, sociologists and legal Studies, Department of Cultural Heritage and Archeomafie, in collaboration with “International Observatory Archeomafie”, aims to provide adequate training on the dynamics, strategies, objectives and modus operandi of those who in, a criminal manner, are dedicated to looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural goods. At the same time it aims at informing on how to recognize and evaluate works of art by scientific means, specifically devised for the identification of fakes.
Art-Test presented to a group of students including archaeologists, historians, lawyers and tourist guides, the multiplicity of analytical aspects relevant to identify inauthentic artworks, starting from the concept of fake, through the study of several examples in which various analytical techniques have been applied. Knowledge is power, also to defeat the illicit.
A new course is starting on the 25th of March. Interested? Apply here:
We have chosen a new, more prestigious location. The new building ,Palazzo Frescobaldi, is way more central,with just a 5 min walk from Ponte Vecchio, but more importantly it offers an increased security level for our customers, thanks to a 24/7 guard at the entrance .
We will throw a party in spring to celebrate, as currently too many activities keep up busy and around the world… for your service!
The new address is:
Art-Test, Via Santo Spirito 11-13, 50125 Firenze.
Our telephone number will remain the same: 0039 055 2286478
Looking forward to welcoming you here!
As usual by this time of the year, AIAr organizes a new edition of “Scienza e’ Arte”. And Art-Test takes part in one of the events. This time we will be in Paestum!
The museum of the Archaeological Park hosted a particularly interesting exhibition entitled “Possession”. During the exhibition, AiAr, with its institutional partners and the companies in its network (among which Art-Test), has promoted a diagnostic campaign on numerous finds.
Next 2nd December, in Paestum, at the Museum of the Archaeological Park, a workshop will be held on the topic of possess, robbery and antique art, and the assessments which are possible via archaeometric techniques: Possessione. Trafugamenti e falsi di antichità a Paestum. Le indagini archeometriche.
Art-Test will present, together with the Florentine colleagues of ICVBC-CNR, the scientific data emerging from the analysis of a tomb that was stolen from the Archaeological Park and returned to the museum a few years ago, following a police action in switzerland
.Join us and discover beautiful and hidden treasures!
The eye is not enough but an incomplete diagnostics campaign is also not enough
We say that the best way to assess the essence of a person is to look into their eyes, which are the mirror of the soul.
But these same eyes, when used to judge a work of art, may be an insufficient tool, or be deceived.
More and more often we read about “fake paintings discoveries”.
A few weeks ago, for example, the news appeared of the return to the unculpable purchaser, by Sotheby’s, of a large sum of money received from the sale of an alleged Frans Hals. And it seems that this is not the only painting that had the same fate, in fact the batch would comprise 25 works, all fakes.
The chronicles report that this painting was declared authentic not only by experts of the auction house, but also by art historians who examined it during the “export certification” procedure.
It turns out that their study made use also of an imaging diagnostic campaign. We read that the painting was analyzed with ultraviolet, infrared and X-ray radiations. Then how is it possible that that a fake was certified authentic? Perhaps the diagnostic campaign was not sufficient, or the images have not been correctly interpreted?
Art-Test always suggests including an analysis of the materials used.
This to verify whether they were available in the period in which it is assumed that the work has been done, and to evaluate their compatibility with the modus operandi of the artist proposed.
Analyses are always useful. They must be professionally done and presented with the utmost transparency. Lately in the catalog of Sotheby’s upcoming auction of old masters, a reflectography image appeared along the picture of the painting. Is this the beginning of a new chapter in the art authenticity quest? We hope so, since we love our work and art alike!
The wonderful “Female Head” of Leonardo, also known as “Scapigliata” or “Lady of disheveled hair” preserved at the National Gallery of Parma, represented for Leonardo da Vinci a sort of manifesto of his status of excellent painter and, at the same time, a sort of a safe-conduct for his habit of not finishing his paintings, according to the latest research of Carmen Bambach, published on the occasion of the extremely intersting exhibition “Unfinished” at the MET of New York. In fact, it would seem that Leonardo wanted to compare himself with Apelles of Kos, the legendary ancient Greek painter. In a book that Leonardo is known to have owned, Pliny wrote that the Apelles had worked on a Venus without being able to bring it to completion, remaining however, despite this “failure”, the greatest painter ever existed, and rather “inventing” the “unfinished” genre.
Art-Test has performed investigations on the Scapigliata at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) of New York, to evaluate its conservation status before its transfer to Paris, for the exhibition “Leonardo in France – The Master and his Pupils 500 years after crossing the Alps. 1516-2016”, open at the Italian Embassy till November 20, 2016.
Art-Test has also performed analysis on two other of the most important paintings on display in Paris: the “Saint John” of Salaì of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana of Milan and the “Salvator Mundi” (or “Head of Christ”) also currently generally attributed to his favorite assistant and friend Salaì but by other eminent scholars reputed of being by the hand of Leonardo himself.
The reflectographies of these great artworks, together with many other diagnostic images are published with considerable size and quality in the catalogue of the exhibition.
Procida, a small island in the bay of Naples, became the protagonist of a conference focused on the possibility for it of being a recuperation model in the broadest sense. Its historical heritage could in fact become the engine of economic and cultural wealth.
“The Island of Procida: the sustainable rebirth and the beauty economy” is the title of the conference, to which Art-Test participated, and during which speakers explained the developments and possible variations of that aspiration.
The starting point is a huge historical and architectural complex dating back to 1200, including the hunting lodge of Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who later became a maximum security prison of the Italian State, unfortunately abandoned since 1988, because it did not comply with the new safety standards.
In recent years, the property ownership was transferred to the City itself, and today Procida attempts to revive this “piece” of the island’s history, proposing it as a possible model of sustainable development. This ambitious project aims at making the complex attractive for research organizations, universities and … individuals, making Palazzo d’Avalos, and the former penitential home, models of cultural and economic evolution.
Already during the first intervention at the conference, the importance of diagnostics tests was underlined as being the initial moment of knowledge but also an undisputable means for the future prominence of it. Understanding and awareness raising through art diagnostics.
Procida, and its place for “locking down”, the former prison, wants to become a place of great openness to the various forms of culture.
With Cultural Heritage mingled with contemporaneity. A contemporary artist, Alfredo Pirri, had, in fact, already chosen the island last year for “7.0”, a suggestive creation with which to bring to the memory of the viewers “the same look , identically dreamy or painful that once ran through the very same window and headed for the sea and far away places once only imagined”. The window is one of many in this complex looking towards Vesuvius, behind which in the morning you can enjoy the romantic tones of a special sunrise, with colors that fascinated so much the Grand Tour painters.
And it is this landscape, seen from the highest point of the island, allowing to embrace in a single sight the whole territory of the Campi Flegrei, to create a unique added value for a place which is meant to be a point from which to observe, but that it now also under the spot light.
We tend to agree with him!
The Symposium was an interesting opportunity to learn, thanks to the Superintendent of Pisa, Dott. Francesco D’Anselmo, the official Amedeo Mercurio and to Dr. Roberta Lapucci, head of the restoration department of SACI, about the history and the current status of the fortification built in 1603 on the initiative of Philip II, and the adjoining church. A nodal and strategic site to defend Elba and Argentario from pirate raids from the south and French attacks from the north. Depleted from this function, from the mid-nineteenth century the fortification was gradually converted to a penitential institution.
The paintings which belong to the church and were the subject of analysis and restoration are of the Florentine school and dated between the seventeenth and eighteenth century. They were donated by the Tuscan grand ducal court or commissioned by the governors of the Fort. The iconographic theme is centered on sacred subjects and honours the saints celebrated by the post-Tridentine tradition.
In 1987, because of a riot in the prison, the church was severely damaged and has since been abandoned.
Only now, thanks to the synergy between the SACI school and the Superintendent a project is being carried out to return to the public part of the goods stored here Art-Test has contributed a diagnostic campaign that has studied the first four paintings which underwent restoration. Both addressing conservation aspects and studying the genesis of the paintings through the study of the underlying composition, visualized thanks to reflectographic imaging performed.
The day ended with a praise for the initiative, with the confirmation of the obvious need to recover a site so important to the history of Elba island but also with a reflection, as underlined by dr. Mercurio on what could be the future of the church’s art apparatus. Currently it is not foreseen for the church to be reopened to the public. The restored works if not relocated would still remain unseen by the community. Alternative solutions are therefore being sought after. An alternative way of exhibit could for example include showing the diagnostic surveys to add intriguing information and create fascinating opportunities for the curious tourist.
Here the link to a video of the exhibition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS9Jb3GkM9o
At the upcoming auction “14th to 20th century paintings” scheduled for the 17th of May in Florence at Pandolfini’s auction house, a “Madonna with the Child and an angel” on wood, 59×42 cm, 112×77 cm with frame, painted by the well-known forger Umberto Giunti (Siena 1886-1970) is offered with an estimate of 8000/12000 euros.
The quintessence of Rembrandt.
No part betrays an imitator, or may reveal a forgery. However, it is a fake. Indeed an ingenious experiment that challenges the limits of imagination.
‘The next Rembrandt’ is a project sponsored by the Dutch banking group ING which has designed and launched a seemingly crazy challenge: imagine and produce a masterpiece that Rembrandt’s could have painted if he had not died 347 years ago. The subtitle indeed reads: “Can the great master be brought back to create one more painting?””
A study performed together with Microsoft, the University of Delft and the Mauritshuis Museum, during 18 months, with 346 paintings studied and acquired digitally.
The result is fascinating. “If I would have seen it in a museum I’d believed that it was a genuine Rembrandt, only one that I had not yet seen”, it is said in the video. Probably the same would have happened if a photograph had reached an expert.
Certainly not if the painting had been subject to diagnostic investigation. ‘… any art demands its instruments”, writes Leonardo (” ogni arte dimanda is suoi strumenti“). For the attribution of a painting, the assessment possible with the connoisseurs’ eye is certainly increasingly just one of them.
For Art-Test, the Aiar appointment is double. If you have missed the interesting workshop on Caravaggio last April in Empoli, you can take the opportunity to see the work of Art-Test in conjunction with S.T. Art-Test entitled “Caravaggio or not Caravaggio? Preliminary scientific evidence for the attribution of the St. John the Baptist of Empoli (Tuscany)”. How many of sensational discoveries news are given when it comes to names such as Caravaggio, however, without the support of an adequate system of preliminary studies? The infrared analysis on Empoli version of San Giovanni Battista discloses important factual discoveries; the debate is open: the scientific data can really make a difference and rewrite the entire history of a painting!
For the complete program of the congress AIAr:
Chinese porcelain is one of the great protagonists of the art market in recent years; but how do you prove that such pieces are worthy a relevant investment and are not fake?
Experience has taught that for great quality imitations, the traditional authentication methods based on the study of style, decoration, materials and trademarks, often proved to be inadequate. Even for porcelain artefacts scientific diagnostic is fundamental. For these artefacts chemical microsamples analyses are traditionally used, although in recent decades, advanced non-invasive techniques have developed that can limit (micro-) destructive sampling.
In this regard, we are pleased to remind you that on next 10 March, during “A bridge between art and science: past, present and future”, the 2016 National Congress of AIAr (Italian Association of Archaeometry of which Art-Test is a member), we will be guests of the University of Cosenza along with many scholars and professionals, teachers and researchers from universities and public research bodies, archaeologists and restorers to discuss diagnostic, restoration, preventive conservation and protection.
During the session “Characterization and Diagnostics” will present together with colleagues from S.T. Art-Test and one of the greatest experts of these artefacts, Riccardo Montanari, the intervention “A non-invasive approach for the authentication of oriental porcelain“. Our proposal is based on the integration of non-invasive fluorescence X-rays and computed tomography X-ray… more details on Thursday 10th!!
Our attention to the Chinese market does not stop there. It is an increasingly attractive market, especially now that the attention of Chinese collectors is turning also towards European paintings, as proven by the recent purchase at auction of a Modigliani by a Chinese tycoon for 170 million dollars. Art-Test is approaching this reality, following different paths… news on that will be coming soon!
During the “7th IEEE International Workshop on Information Forensics and Security (WIFS) 2015”, on November 19, a paper by L.Pronti, P. Ferrara, F.Uccheddu, A. Pelagotti and A.Piva entitled “Identification of pictorial materials by means of optimized multispectral reflectance image processing.” will be presented. The work relates to the analysis of the limits and the possibilities offered by multispectral imaging for a reliable identification of materials used in paintings, and stems from the increasingly active collaboration between the University of Florence, La Sapienza in Rome and Art-Test . The multispectral imaging is always a relevant topic, and an interesting non-invasive method, although recently abused by those who lack the necessary scientific basis. Art-test has been a pioneer of this field, with the paper “Multispectral Imaging of Paintings: a Way to Material Identification” by A.Pelagotti, A. Del Mastio, A .de Rosa, A.Piva, , published in the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, Special Issue on Cultural Heritage, vol. 25 n. 4 in July 2008. Since its start, Art-Test develops and applies cutting-edge scientific methods for artworks analysis and diagnostics. We do not use PhotoShop or similar commercial software. The results of our research are usually presented in relevant scientific publications, except when prevented by confidentiality reasons. If you are interested in the scientific methods used in our investigations, please check http://www.art-test.com/pubblicazioni/
The latest publications to which Art-Test contributed:
- V.Raimondi at alii, The use of IR-based techniques in the PRIMARTE project: an integrated approach to the diagnostics of the cultural heritage AITA 215- Advanced Infrared Technology and Applications – 29 Sept. – 2 Oct. 2015, Pisa, Italy, SPIE Remote Sensing 2015 -1 – 24 September 2015 – Toulouse, France AITA
- V.Raimondi at al A multi-disciplinary study on a late 14th-century Florentine Chapel: integrating information, from laser-based measurements to archive historical data, in a multi-medial tools for cultural heritage conservation, LACONA X 2014 – Lasers in the Conservation of Artworks, 9-13 June 2014, Sharjah, UAE
- F.Uccheddu, A.Pelagotti, V.Cappellini and E.Massa. 3D Technology for Measurement of Surface Deformations Paintings: A Case Study, Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2014) London, UK, 8-10 July 2014
- F. Alberghina, M.F. Alberghina, L. Damiani, E. Massa, A. Pelagotti, L.Piccione, S. Schiavone, U. Copani, X-rays for diagnostic imaging of art -46 ° National Congress of the Italian Society of Medical Radiology (SIRM), Florence – Fortezza da Basso (22-25 May 2014) “The X-ray over the Medicine”
- F.Alberghina, MFAlberghina, L.Damiani, E.Massa, A.Pelagotti, S. Schiavone, How many layers and of what? An integrated non-invasive approach for the understanding of painting’s stratigraphy, IV International Meeting “Youth in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage – YOCOCU”, 28 to 31 May 2014, Agsu – Azerbaijan.
- The Pala del Carmine Santi di Tito, analysis of technique and materials used, Science and Technology for Cultural Heritage, Fabrizio Serra publisher, Pisa – Rome
- The Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna and its restoration. And syllables, Livorno by Lia Brunori and Susanna Bracci
- Beyond Gold: a database of underdrawings and material analyzes on Sienese paintings. Connections and dissimilarities of painting techniques across centuries and countries. Published by Bernard Coulie and Paul Dujardin
- Above and below the painting: the results of scientific studies on the Madonna di San Luca in Bologna, curated by Dr. Franco Faranda
A conference about the influence of the Lombard painter in Northern Europe is scheduled for the end of November at the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht (NL).
The conference aims to shed new light on the diversity of artistic responses derived from the works painted by Caravaggio during the first decades of the seventeenth century. Interesting is also the proposal to investigate the mechanisms of migration, the history of collecting and the relationships between the artists. The conference anticipates some of the central themes of the upcoming exhibition “Caravaggio and the painters of the North”, which will take place at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid (June 21-September 25, 2016).
Here is the link for more information: http://niki-florence.org/caravaggio-and-northern-european-painting-niki-conference-utrecht-30-november/
The conference poster shows the painting “St. John the Baptist”, which we discussed in http://www.art-test.com/unforgettable-out-look/, in occasion of the presentation of the analysis of the version of Empoli.
We are happy to invite you to “Sotto-sopra, quando le indagini rivoluzionano la conoscenza di un’opera d’arte!” : an event conceived by S.T.Art-Test and Art-test, and organized in collaboration with the Gallery of Modern Art and the Culture Department of the City of Palermo, and the “Youth Committee: Sicily region – Italian National Commission for UNESCO”. It will be held on November 1st, 2015 at GAM in Palermo.
The event is part of the second National Festival dedicated to the interaction between art and science organized by the Italian Association of Archaeometry (AIAr).
After the success of the 12-13 December 2014 edition , which involved 11 locations across Italy and saw the participation of S.T.Art-Test at the Archaeological Museum of Himera (Termini Imerese, PA), AIAr makes a second edition with a new program of meetings, events and workshops focused on the link between art and science. The discussion topics will mostly be diagnostic and conservation. Private companies, university researchers and research organizations will provide the visitors information on the use of scientific methods applied to cultural heritage.
Do not miss, then, the day of November 1st, 2015 when seminars and workshops will animate the two scheduled sessions ( session I, 11:00 to 12:30 and session II 16:30 to 18:00) focused on scientific investigation to the knowledge of the paintings and the use of non-invasive equipment for the study of two paintings of the e\xhibitions which the management of GAM has made available for the occasion. Come and discover with us who it is!
The exhibition dedicated to ‘Carlo Dolci 1616-1687’ is in full swing at the Palatine Gallery in Florence, with about seventy works on display (including many from prestigious international museums, like the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris , and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich of Bavaria) in dialogue with works by other artists of his time and a small group of works of his followers.
For the occasion, the Palatine Gallery in collaboration with the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence will dedicate a conference to discuss the important campaign of study and restoration of numerous paintings that preceded the preparation of the exhibition and which has contributed to extend the knowledge of the style and modus operandi of the painter. The central theme will focus on the painting technique of Dolci.
Art-Test will gladly participate with the restorer Miriam Fiocca with the contribution “The hidden magician”: key findings emerged about the painting “Madonna tendering the Baby Jesus” (work n.79 int the catalog) that, under radiographic examination, revealed a surprising and substantial modification of the composition.
The event is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7 at the Theater of the Rondo di Bacco, Palazzo Pitti.
An unique opportunity not to be missed!!
Read more at: http://www.unannoadarte.it/carlodolci/main/
Preparations are underway for the second edition and Art and(is) Science!
Following the success of last year, Aiar (Italian Association of Archaeometry) organizes for the first weekend of November, together with the initiative of Mibact “A Sunday at the Museum”, a new national meeting entirely dedicated to the interaction between art and science, culture, society and education, with special attention paid to the diagnostics, the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage.
The 2014 edition involved researchers from Universities, CNR, INFN, ENEA, and other research institutions and private companies that have been active in places of historical/artistic interest and museums scattered throughout the Italian territory, with study meetings and guided visits focused on technology applied to art and conservation issues.
Art-Test and S.T. Art-Test (which already participated to the last event, at the Archaeological Museum of Himera, Termini Imerese 12-13/12/2014), will be glad to meet you this year at the Gallery of Modern Art in Palermo.
We’ll provide soon the details of the event.
Carlo Dolci a patient technique
Carlo Dolci, said Carlino, a beloved and acclaimed artist by the critics of his time, considered the greatest Florentine painter of the seventeenth century, contended by European nobility (although he almost never left the Tuscan territory), is now back in the spotlight thanks to the monographic exhibition running until November 15 at the Galleria Palatina of Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The exhibition brings together works from numerous European museums: the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, the Alte Pinakothek of Monaco Bavaria, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, theAshmolean Museum in Oxford, the Burghley House in Stamford, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brest, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and the British Royal Collection, reflecting the international scope of his works.
Interior of the exhibition ” Io, Carlo Dolci “, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence
The exhibition brings together nearly 100 paintings, of which seventy of Dolci, and the remainings by his contemporaries, to facilitate comparisons and show connections, in a sort of compendium of his descriptive style, rigorous and meticulously attentive to detail, smooth, icy but sensual, which has been called “hyperrealist” before its time. His almost obsessive rendering of details is exemplary: from the soft and almost palpable fabrics of the robes, to the splendid jewels, which, quoting the biographer Filippo Baldinucci, were “imitated in such a gorgeous (and realistic) fashion, that, as much as one touched and retouched the canvas to make sure they were painted, the eye was left in doubt.”
This exhibition has been a precious opportunity to kick off a major campaign of restoration and overhaul of 33 works of the Master, also important for the study of the unique painting technique used, which involved innovative wits to reach the coveted mimesis. Moreover, radiographic analyses have allowed to add completely unexpected insights to the knowledge also of well-known paintings of Dolci’s catalogue, such as in the case of the diagnostic tests on the “Madonna with Child” of the Palatine Gallery (performed by Art-Test, not yet published), which revealed substantial changes to the composition.
“Madonna with the Child”, Carlo Dolci, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence
In his latest book the author provides a new interpretation of the many self-portraits by Goya, identifying five categories, and through them tracing the often dramatic events of the life of the Aragonese painter.
We are pleased that our analyzes have proved useful. We strive to support experts with certainties. After all we share the thought of Leonardo: “a little certainty is better than a big lie“.
Piero di Cosimo
On show this summer in Florence the monographic exhibition “Piero di Cosimo eccentric painter between Renaissance and Mannerism” (Uffizi, until 27/9), following the one recently concluded at National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Lent to Washington and now worth a visit in Florence, among others the extraordinary “Liberation of Andromeda“, as according to Vasari: “Piero never made a lovelier or more highly finished picture than this one“, (diagnostics by Art-Test, not yet published)
In the Florentine exhibition, paintings and drawings by Piero relate with works by artists such as Filippino Lippi, Fra Bartolomeo and Lorenzo di Credi, to highlight how the pupil di Cosimo stands out as an original painter, whose style was said to be more Flemish (or Venetian), rather than Florentine, as his paintings were more relying on color values rather than on the preparatory drawing. But is this what emerges from the investigation?
A solitary painter, he was however greatly demanded by the most prominent families of Florence (including Strozzi, Capponi, Vespucci). He was an experimenter, one of the firsts, along with Leonardo, adopting the oil painting technique. The studies conducted byE. Walmsley reveal, in fact, how Piero was also eccentric in the way he was making use of his tools, with overlapping and peculiar brushstrokes and sometimes also of fingertips. It was in fact just uncovering the use of such a particular way of working that helped to solve several cases of dubious attributions.
Attempting new ways, away from the established traditional ones, however, could also be the cause of the difficult state of conservation faced by several of his works.
For example, the great altarpiece “Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine and Saints“, alongside the high quality of the original painting, revealed also significant losses under the multiple layers of repainting (diagnostic analyses by Art-Test, not yet published). This masterpiece was unexpectedly found, resurfacing in the antiquarian market, in a private collection. On special loan for the exhibition, you can now admire it during the challenging phases of restoration. Such a unique opportunity should also not be missed!
The top part of the altarpiece was missing, but a befitting fragment displaying two angels distributing incense and jointly carrying a crown, listed as “style of Piero di Cosimo” was identified at the National Gallery in Edinburgh. When it came to Florence to undergo the necessary conservation treatments, the examinations revealed on the altarpiece, concealed by overpainting and restoration, the feet of the angels of the top. The testing (performed by Art-Test, still to be published) left no doubt! The repainting has been removed and the two parts are now joined for the display. So the angels got their feet again, but only temporarily, since after the exhibition they will be separated by over 1700 km again!
“Angels holding a crown “, before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, National Gallery of Edinburgh
“Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine”, before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, private collection; currently on display at the Florentine exhibition in the course of the conservation treatment
Researchers from more than 50 nations met in Catania debating on advanced diagnostics for the works of art.
Different approaches to diagnostics and conservation of artworks, and new analytical methodologies were presented during a 3 day high level scientific international conference taking place in Sicily. These new devices mainly address the non-invasive study of original, restoration and degradation materials, targeting higher spatial resolution and the possibility to discriminate in depth. Many efforts are in fact made to know the stratigraphic sequence of the materials, in a non-invasive fashion.
New portable equipment is generally developed by research groups and not yet widely available, like Terahertz imaging, new spectrometers with high spatial resolution and the possibility to see at different depths in the artwork, and integrated spectrometers (combining XRF-Raman or XRF-XRD ;. .). It became clear that, to date, the best possible approach is to integrate the available techniques, and also to assess their relative performance.
The case of a “Goya”, mistakenly attributed by another laboratory because of a misidentification of the materials, gave us the opportunity, in this context, to talk about the limits and possibilities of the various techniques. The use of the most reliable methods is in fact a must: wrong assessment of the artist’s palette, as in the case presented, can misplace the date of execution of centuries, greatly influencing its economic value ().
Faced with the amount of information that the most advanced techniques can provide nowadays, one more reflection shared between researchers, is certainly related to the need to compare data collected by the various laboratories in order to collect large-scale scientific evidence and better understand the results obtained for each specific case.
It is in line with this thinking the database of 100 paintings from the Pinacoteca di Siena “Under the gold” (http://www.art-test.com/it/database-it/), which was the topic of other contribution byArt–Test in collaboration with S.T.Art Test. An important tool for the study of evolution in Sienese painting (from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century) and for dating and authentication of works of art.
The international conference TECHNART 2015, was organized by the INFN-LNS departments, IBAM-CNR and the University of Catania (Department of Chemistry and Department of Physics and Astronomy) in collaboration with the group of scientific research of ‘ICOM-CC and the Italian Association of Archaeometry (AIAr).
In Ferrara to discuss the future of this discipline
During the next edition of the Restoration Fair in Ferrara, held from May 6-9, 2015, Art-Test will be present in a stand shared with partners and collaborators of AIAr (Italian Association of Archeometry) as well as at a meeting on Friday, May 8th, titled: “Are there jobs in science for cultural heritage? A network between research, business and government. ”
The problem is strongly felt by the industry and by many who see in these disciplines an opportunity for growth for the protection of our cultural heritage, and also the scientific profile of a field where Italy has been for long a benchmark but is currently facing economic difficulties.
During this event the AIAr Network of companies will be presented, an initiative born last year to reduce the gap between institutions and companies, to promote cooperation, interoperability and joint research.
The meeting comes at the conclusion of a path where AIAr has been proposed as a reference point of a virtuous network of public and private entities operating in the cultural heritage sector, by promoting a program of meetings with companies, in order to increase the exchange of knowledge and expertise between the various players in the areas of diagnostics, conservation, enhancement and exploitation of cultural heritage and at the same time evaluate possible collaborations and joint projects.
We invite you to participate and support this initiative!
Caravaggio or not Caravaggio? A report on the 11th April Study Day
“The Mother of Caravaggio is always pregnant”, is the title of a provocative pamphlet by Tomaso Montanari, meant to emphasize how often we talk about discoveries without the support of adequate research. This is not the case of the painting from Empoli, for which the accomplished restoration was the occasion for a study day on “From Caravaggio. The St. John the Baptist and its copies “, attended by a large number of eminent scholars, including Professor Mina Gregori.( She, an undisputed authority in the field at the opening declared to be very interested and to be ready to learn more. What an enviable vitality and what an exemplary attitude!)
The scientific research (performed by Art-Test) on the painting now in Empoli, one of the known variants of this St John subject, provided rather interesting results which show e,g, that in fact it is not a nineteenth century copy as some speculated, but a seventeenth century artwork. Moreover, IR reflectography allowed visualizing some interesting “pentimenti”, for example in the look.
Conference proceedings are due in September, but the communications given at the workshop are already available on line (http://ilraccontodellarte.com/) (in Italian). The talk by Art-Test is also on our YouTube channel (https: // www.youtube.com/channel/UCh8hj11mXK5ut4ajsT8V7kA).
After the greetings of the authorities, with the debate moderated by Bruno Santi, and the introduction to the works by Prof. Mina Gregori, Nicole Mayers’ communication related on the events that led the painting now in the collection to Kansas City, while Cristina Terzaghi focused on the collection Costa. The communication by Angela Cerasuolo explained the technical characteristics of the artwork now in Capodimonte, while Valfredo Siemoni reported on the evidence collected about the provenance of the painting now in Empoli. Cristina Gnoni and Sandra Pucci explained the restoration works and stressed the importance of them in reestablishing discernibility to the artwork. After the report of Art-Test on materials and techniques employed, Roberta Lapucci focused on iconographic aspects while Marco Masseti, archozoologoo, concluded with an interesting overview of animal furs employed for the iconography of St John.
( photo by: Marcantonio Perugino)
Saturday, April 11 2015, the Church of St Stephen Augustinian in Empoli will host the workshop“From Caravaggio. The San Giovanni Battista Costa and his copies” moderated by Prof. Bruno Santi.
This subject had a great fortune, in Italy and abroad. There are at least 8 known versions of this painting, with different and controversial attributions. Which artists did paint them? And what is the history of the little-known version now in Empoli? This painting, which became part of the heritage of the church of St. Stephen, thanks to the donation of Monsignor Marchetti in 1823 and almost unreadable before restoration, was nearly neglected hanging in a building that has a long history: it was erected in the fifteenth century by the brotherhood of the Augustinians, who are since the Middle Ages in the area of Empoli. Among the famous names of artists who worked there we find Masolino and Starnina (whose frescoes have come to us in the form of a fragment or sinopia), Cigoli and Cresti, said the Passignano. But the most illustrious name is certainly that of Caravaggio, tied to the the St. John the Baptist now in the Chapel of the Purification. But is this painting original or is it a copy? The symposium will be an opportunity to present the studies and the results of the recent restoration, conducted by Sandra Pucci, and directed by Maria Cristina Gnoni Mavarelli of the SBAPSE of Florence Pistoia and Prato, together with the results, that we cannot anticipate, of the diagnostic testing, including analysis of materials and reflectography performed by Art-Test.
Please join us on Saturday, April 11 from 9:30 am at the Church of St. Stephen of the Augustinians of Empoli. Admission is free. Save the date !!
St. John the Baptist of Mercy Empoli, photos of Alena Fialová
Here the program for the day
The 2015 edition of Technart: the biennial international conference for the promotion and the meeting of experts of science applied to cultural heritage is approaching. The event, organized by Southern National Laboratories of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, the Istituto per i Beni Archeologici e Monumentali and the University of Catania (Department of Chemistry) in collaboration with ICOM-CC and AIAr, will take place in Catania next 27 to 30 April.
On the track of previous editions (Lisbon, Athens, Berlin and Amsterdam), the forum will be a precious opportunity to discuss and present new techniques and scientific applications to the study of cultural heritage.
Art-Test will participate in collaboration with S.T.Art-Test addressing two topics. The first is the issue of the reliability and comparison of scientific techniques: the case of a supposedly Goya will be an opportunity to talk about the limits and possibilities of the FORS and XRF methods, a hot topic when it comes to attributions, because finding a pigment or another can move the date of execution of centuries. Then Art-Test will present the scientific database of 100 paintings from the Pinacoteca di Siena “Under the gold” (http://www.art-test.com/database-eng/) an essential tool for the study of evolution in painting Siena (from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century) and for the dating and authentication of works of art.
Click on the image to visit Technart
The annual Restoration Fair Ferrara will open again from 6 to 9 May 2015!
Art-Test and S.T.Art-Test await you at the AIAr, Italian Association of Archaeometrybooth. This network of firms active in the Cultural Heritage field will present its activities geared to the dissemination of achievements and scientific research in the field.
A workshop has been organized for Friday, May 8, the exact program will be defined shortly. Relevant organizations will take part to it, along with other companies also the National Research Council, University of Calabria, Department of Archaeology and the School of Ferrara Superiore di Venaria will be present.
Click on the image to visit the Exhibition of the Restoration of Ferrara in 2015 … is constantly updated!
The Art Test channel on Youtube is born!
You can finally see some videos of our work, including the report that the Rai TV program “Superquark” dedicated to the discovery of the authenticity of a Caravaggio painting in collaboration with Roberta Lapucci, and the presentation “Beyond Gold. More than meets the eyes” with some of the results of the analysis of 50 paintings from the Pinacoteca di Siena which were shown at the Bozar in Brussels during the exhibition “Paintings from Siena: Ars Narrandi in Europe’s Gothic Age” (now scheduled at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen from 21 March to 17 August 2015), and which along with other 50 paintings (also belonging to the Art Gallery of Siena) are part of the database “Sotto l’oro” ( http://www.art-test.com/database-en/ )
We invite you to subscribe to our channel to keep updated on events, discoveries and presentations that we’ll publish.
Click on the image to watch the video on the analysis of the paintings of Siena!
UNESCO has declared 2015 the year of light, to spread knowledge and awareness on how this is, in its broadest sense, from LED light bulbs to X-rays, through optical fibers, an excellent resource for addressing global challenges concerning health, sustainability, growth and … ART!
During the grand opening ceremony in Paris attended by five Nobel Prize laureates, two speeches were devoted to art, to paintings and how light enlivens them and can reveal their secrets.
Alessandro Farini from the Institute of Optics (INOA) of Florence, presented fascinating optical illusions and the play of light that show the importance of good lighting to enjoy the great beauty and illustrated the discoveries of infrared reflectography on Caravaggio’s work.
Art and optics (video) was also the theme of Charles Falco, intrigued for years, along with David Hockney, by the appearance of optical instruments in the workshop of painters. A thesis introduced by Roberta Lapucci and shared bySusan Grundy, all scholars with whom Art-Test has got to collaborate and share exciting discoveries.
Light and interaction with the works of art are at the heart of our work, and we are glad that these techniques have received such an important recognition.
In the above picture (by Jovan Mizzi) you can recognize Charles Falco, David Hockney and Anna Pelagotti during the symposium organized in Florence in 2008 by Roberta Lapucci and titled “Painted Optics”, which saw the practical demonstration of the legitimacy of these considerations, also thanks to the darkroom provided by Art-Test!
For the first time the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is co-organizer of an exhibition along with another museum; we are referring to the first major retrospective of Piero di Cosimo, that the National Gallery of Art in Washington is hosting from February 1st to May 3rd, 2015: “Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence”. There has been just one precedent case in the United States: the exhibition in New York, in 1938, of seven works at the Schaeffer Gallery, a small but important contribution to the dissemination of works of the great masters in museums that were among its clients.
Forty-four artworks are arranged along the six galleries of the West Building: altarpieces, private devotional pictures and portraits. The style of the Master distinguished by an “abstract and uneven” ingenuity, as claimed by Vasari in “Le Vite”, is traced according to the changeability that characterized him: pagan themes, divine themes, mythological and allegorical scenes. The exhibition includes paintings from Italian churches and the masterpiece of the Museo degli Innocenti “Madonna and Child Enthroned with the Saints Elizabeth of Hungary, Catherine of Alexandria, Peter and John the Evangelist with angels.”
Art-Test had the pleasure to perform diagnostic campaigns of three works by Piero di Cosimo including one of the paintings on display in Washington, the famous “Liberation of Andromeda” (about 1510-1513), chosen as the cover image of the exhibition. This work is a symbol of the imagination of the Master who expressed himself more in the subjects than the techniques, such as the sea monster pictured here, which seems to come from a bizarre bestiary. We cannot give any anticipation about the results of the analysis because they are confidential until published, but we will update you as soon as possible!
Soon you will be able to visit the exhibition in Florence, albeit in a different form. It will be the Uffizi Gallery hosting it from June 23 to September 27. Save the date!
An image of Art-Test at work during the acquisitions on the painting by Piero di Cosimo in the laboratories of the Uffizi in Florence
Concluding the semester of Italian Presidency of the EU Council and the exhibition “Ars Narrandi in Euope’s Gothic Age” at the Bozar, i.e. the Centre de Beaux-Arts in Brussels, (exhibition to be hosted from March 21 to August 17, 2015 at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen), a symposium entitled “Path to Europe: influences and contacts between Byzantium and the low countries” organized by BOZAR-EXPO in collaboration with the Catholic University of Louvain and the Leventis Foundation of Nicosia took place on January 18, 2015.
Paul Dujardin, artistic director of the Bozar, and Bernard Coulie, Honorary Rector and President of the Catholic University of Leuven, has welcomed speakers at this conference focusing on how the influence of Byzantine painting on Flemish art through the mediation of the Italian cities, with particular reference to the role played by Siena.
Among the speakers, Dr. Mario Scalini, one of the curators of the exhibition “Ars Narrandi in Euope’s Gothic Age”, Soprintendente BSAE of Siena and Grosseto, has held a lecture entitled “Angelicae Cohortes: notes about armored saints and angels from Byzantium to the Low countries”.
The speech of Dr. Anna Pelagotti for Art-Test, “Under the gold: a database of underdrawing and material analyses on Sienese Paintings. Connections and dissimilarities among painting techniques across centuries and countries “, addressed the close relationship between the art object and the techniques used to achieve it and introduce the database of diagnostic investigations over hundred paintings from the Pinacoteca di Siena Art-Test Florence carried out in the past few months, in collaboration with the Soprintendenza of Siena and Grosseto, designed to compare and learn about the styles and techniques of about 65 artists between the thirteenth and fifteenth century and which can now be purchased (http://www.art-test.com/database-en/) either complete or by individual images.
For program details, please visit the dedicated webpage of the Bozar at https://www.bozar.be/activity.php?id=15516&selectiondate=2015-01-18
The news that, after forty years of “absence”, a Caravaggio will be put for sale has aroused great interest among the press, the curious and collectors. Between 27 and 29 of January, Christie’s will propose, as part of the Old Masters Week, the oil on canvas Boy peeling a fruit of which there are at least ten versions and whose estimate is between 3 and 5 million dollars.
We know that a work with this subject was one of the first made by the Master after his arrival in Rome, and which was already showing one of the hallmarks of his style: the use and representation of light. A subject most likely painted from life, one of the first examples of fusion between the genre of still life and the half-length portrait. Several different meanings were attributed by art historians to the painting, sometimes seen as an allegory of autumn, or the sense of taste, or as a warning, or as a simple interest of the painter for this genre.
But is that the original copy?
We would like propose a little game here: here you can see four versions of the Child Peeling a pommel. Which one would you say is the original?
There are not many Caravaggio paintings which are part of private collections. Art-Test Florence has had the pleasure to perform diagnostic campaigns on various works of Caravaggio’s, private and public, including one of the very same subject that is among the ones pictured above.
Certainly an ad-hoc diagnostic campaign can help to shed the light on uncertainties and dispel doubts on authenticity! Scientific investigations have allowed us both to make new discoveries (remember the self-portrait of Caravaggio identified in the Uffizi Bacchus’ pitcher) and to confirm the authenticity (e.g. the “Saint Jerome Writing” of the Oratory of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in La Valletta, Malta).
Would you feel comfortable offering some 5 million dollars without any scientific investigation?
To know more about Aiar: http://www.associazioneaiar.com/wp/aiar-incontra-le-aziende-secondo-incontro/
Here is the adoration of the Shepherds by Andrea di Niccolò (1470-1480), from the Conservatory of Santa Maria Maddalena in Siena and now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale. We have selected it to illustrate not only the nativity, but also our love for art and our satisfaction for discoveries which are possible through our research.
The results of scientific analyzes tell us much about the paintings :they speak, for example, of their genesis, the style and of the choices of the artist. Seeing part of the creative process allows us to ask ourselves the right questions on who, why and when. The answers are never trivial and to learn more we don’t have much choice but to keep studying! A pleasure that we share with you .
This artwork is in fact part of “Under the gold”, the database of diagnostic images of a hundred paintings from the Pinacoteca of Siena that Art-Test Firenze has recently developed, in collaboration with the Superintendence of Siena and Grosseto. The database can be yours: here you will find more information (http://www.art-test.com/it/database-it/).
Art-Test Firenze wishes everyone Merry Christmas and a New Year full of exciting discoveries!
We thank you for the interest with which you have followed us throughout 2014!
Our offices will be closed from December 23 to January 6 . For any urgent communication please contact us by e-mail to email@example.com.
We are pleased to invite you to the conference “DIAGNOSTIC AND RESTORATION OF CONTEMPORARY ARTWORKS. WHICH MEANS TO USE?” Organized by Art – Test Firenze in collaboration with the Institute for Art and Restoration Palazzo Spinelli.
At CONTEMPORANEAMENTE 2014, a project that combines art, design, craft and contemporary culture, produced by Associazione Via Maggio (and already at the fourth edition), a meeting will be held to explore the importance of scientific analyzes for restoration and for authentication, in particular of the contemporary artworks .
The event will be coordinated by Emanuela Massa, restorer, diagnostician and co-founder of Art-Test Firenze who will introduce the currently available scientific methods, invasive and noninvasive. Several case studies will be discussed, resolved and not, and the need for a multidisciplinary approach will be illustrated.
The specific issues regarding restoration matters will be presented by the restorer of Angela Matteuzzi, of Atelier Restauri, Florence .
It will therefore be an ideal opportunity for those interested in the themes of restoration and authentication in contemporary art !
Among the cases presented there will be the example of the painting acquired by Peggy Guggenheim in the seventies as the work of Fernand Léger and of which the authenticity, critics, historians and art experts have debated for nearly forty years; the investigations with the technique of C14 were decisive. It has been established beyond doubt that it is a fake made in 1959, i.e. four years after the death of the painter (two links on the news : http://www.livescience.com/43178-nuclear-bomb-forged-painting.html, http://www.ilrestodelcarlino.it/ferrara/cultura/2014/02/07/1022121-fisici-falso-quadro-leger-test-atomici.shtml))
We have reached similar conclusion for a painting presented as Udalsova, which presented the use of pigments that are not compatible .
A case waiting for final confirmation will be also presented: a presumed Modigliani on which Art-Test Firenze in collaboration with S.T.Art -Test presented a study last May in The Hague, for the occasion of the 2014 Congress of the Foundation for Art Authentication (AIA Foundation) .
(see : http://www.authenticationinart.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/convegnoOlanda_AAA.pdf)
Scientifically “Nihil Obstat” for it to be a Modigliani. To who the last word ?
Please join us lunedì 15 dicembre h.16 at the Istituto per l’Arte e il Restauro, Palazzo Ridolfi, via Maggio 13, Firenze.
On the 12th and 13th December is the first National event dedicated to the interaction between art and science, a two-day of studies and insights about the relationship between art, science and culture .
S.T.Art-Test , the diagnostic services company with which Art-Test Firenze collaborates, participate in the initiative, taking place at the Archaeological Museum of Himera (Termini Himerese, PA).
The event, organized by AiAR , also involves researchers from the Universities, CNR, ENEA, INFN and other research institutions that illustrate the application of scientific technologies to the works hosted in various venues that hold the initiative, including museums, palaces, Archaeological Parks, and that will be connected by a streaming conference with the theme ” Archaeometric applications for Cultural Heritage” .
(For info : http://www.archeo.it/evento/arte-e-scienza-le-scienze-per-i-beni-culturali)
Art-Test Firenze and S.T.Art-Test are organizing other learning opportunities and seminars themed “art and science” : we will talk about the history of diagnostics, the application of classical scientific techniques and of forefront methodologies to cultural heritage, with the many case studies that our nearly ten-year activity in the field allows us.
We will soon let you know locations and dates, hoping to meet again your interest!
From the 13th to the 15th of November, Florence hosts the important Italian restoration biannual fair dedicated to paintings. Three days for the most important Italian and non-Italian realities in the field to meet, share and debate experience and achievements. How to combine art, technology and knowledge will be the central topic for this fourth edition.
This year the event is under has the patronage to the International EXPO 2015, and will host also the assembly of the about 1500 delegates of ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, with his triennial workshop on “Heritage and Landscapes as Humans Values”.
Art-Test invites you to participate Saturday 15th November, h.16:30, to the official presentation of “UNDER THE GOLD – A database of images and scientific data of 100 paintings of the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena”. A way to know in depth the way of drawing and painting of about 65 artists (among others: very famous artists Duccio, Lorenzetti, Memmi, but also less known ones like Benedetto di Bindo and Niccolò di Bonaccorso active in Siena between the XIII and XVI centuries)
Speakers will be Dr Mario Scalini Sovrintendent BSAE for Siena and Grosseto e Dr Ing Anna Pelagotti, for Art-Test Firenze.
We would love to meet and welcome you anytime during the 3 days at our stand, n.30. Please let us know that you are coming and we will provide you with complimentary entrance tickets.
More details on the Salone del Restauro web site: http://www.
More than 800 people took part to the inauguration of the exhibition “Painting from Siena: Ars Narrandi in Europe’s Gothic Age”, last September 9th at the Palais de Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels.
Also the President of the European Commission, Jose’ Manuel Barroso, joined the event, (and in his speech mentioned his love for Siena), together with the Italian Minister for Environment, Galletti, the Italian Ambassador in Belgium, Bastinelli, and the host, the BOZAR director Dujardin, welcoming the exposition and its curators: the Superintendent of Siena and Grosseto, Scalini, and the director of the Sienese Pinacoteca, Guiducci.
Art-Test produced a slide presentation describing some of the results of the analyses on about 50 of the paintings currently on show, which is not displayed within the exhibition. We are happy to hear that is was well received both by the public and the scholars.
The next 18th January a symposium, co-organized by BOZAR and UCL, on “Byzantium and the Flemish Art, Contact and Influence” will be held on the occasion of the exhibition. Both dr. Scalini, for MIUR, and dr. ing. Anna Pelagotti, for Art-Test will give a talk, focusing on the findings possible with the information available within the database.
To know more about Bozar: https://www.bozar.be/activity.php?id=14090&selectiondate=2014-11-06
The Superintender Scalini and the President of the European Commission at the opening.
“Geijutsu Schincho” is a well-known Japanese magazine, dealing with art, history, photography and design. The last special issue was devoted to the exhibition “Art in Florence, from Botticelli to Bronzino, towards a modern style” at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 11th October- 14th December2014. This important exhibition aims at illustrating the evolution of the Florentine way of painting between the XV and the XVI centuries, and the importance the Medici family had in this context, together with the other collectors and patrons.
It is the first time that such a large collection (about 80 artworks) moves to Japan. Names like Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Agnolo Bronzino and Sandro Botticelli, are in the list. The magazine dedicates a large section also to cultural and historical places at large in Florence, including the Santa Felicita church, the Istituto degli Innocenti, Galleria Palatina and so forth. However, the star remains the Galleria degli Uffizi, with an exclusive interview to the Director, Antonio Natali.
A large section is devoted to the Bacco painting by Caravaggio (1596-97), focusing on the recent discovery, made by Art-Test together with Dr. Roberta Lapucci, of the lost tiny self portrait in it. Once visible, but forgotten, it had been covered by layers of oxidized varnishes, and was not to be seen with the naked eye. It appeared clearly only in the mulspectral IR reflectography images acquired during the diagnostic campaign assigned to Art-Test in the framework of a larger study on several paintings by Caravaggio.
To know more about the exhibition: http://www.tobikan.jp/en/
Among the initiatives for the Italian Semester of Presidency of the European Union (1st July- 31st Dec 2014), the exhibition “Ars Narrandi in the Gothic Age of Europe” (9/11 2014 – 18/1 2015) will enchant visitors at the BOZAR (Centre for Fine Arts) of Bruxelles.
The collaboration between Pinacoteca di Siena and the Musée des Beaux-Artes di Rouen will present more than 60 artworks of Sienese painters working in XIII- XV century period.
A fascinating route through the stylistic evolution from the Byzantine stateliness to new spatial concepts, to unusual and vivid colors which influenced also other Italian and European schools when Italy and Siena in particular hosted the most daring modernity.
The exposition icon is the splendid Madonna dell’Umiltà by Giovanni di Paolo (in the picture), which together with other 30 artworks lend to the Belgian exposition belong to the group of paintings of the Pinacoteca of Siena which Art-Test analyzed and will be included in the 100 works database, already announced in one of our previous newsletter. At the Bozar visitors can also watch a presentation regarding the most interesting findings of the analysis performed by Art-Test on some of the paintings in the exhibition.
Further reading: http:
The diagnostic campaign performed on the “Annunciation” of Santi di Tito in the Carmine Church in Pisa lead to an unexpected discovery and to new insights, crucial for dating the painting.
On top of the XRF analyses planned in order to achieved data on the materials present on the painting, and help defining the best treatments thereafter, Art-Test added a scanning InGaAs infrared refectography, to visualize the underdrawing. A surprising detail was then revealed of the preparatory sketch of the “lantern” of the Cathedral’s dome, not visible to the naked eye. As visible in the above picture, on the right side of the building appears a sort of crane.
But why was there a crane on the top of the Dome? This is a recovered memory of a very specific moment in history, which was hidden already when the painter moved from the underdrawing to the paint layers.
It is recorded that in 1601 a lighting stroke the “Cupola“ severely damaging it, and even the Verrocchio’s bronze ball (atop the lantern) felt off, rolling in the Dome’s square, where a marble disk still reminds of this unfortunate event.
The presence of the crane detail may mean that the underdrawing could have been realized during the lantern restoration, started just after the event. Food for thought for historians, and appreciation for the achievement of our diagnostics tools, as our analysis brought new insight on the period and methods of executions of the painting but also on history of building technique.
A broader publication is due to come soon.
Art-Test started just recently working in Siena, on this extensive database, after winning the public competition published by Sovrintendenza of Siena and Grosseto. The project includes the analyses of a selection of masterpieces, both currently exposed and in the deposits, some of which never tested before. A database of diagnostic data, Xrays, IR reflectographies, techniques and materials concerning 100 paintings from the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena. The outcome will provide a reliable and scientific way of comparing materials and techniques employed by the different painters, schools and periods. An indispensable tool for those studying works of art of such period and/or by the same authors. A great help for authentication and attributions purposes. It is the first time that such an ambitious project in this field sees the collaboration of public and private institutions.
The Association YOuth in COnservation of CUltural heritage (YOCOCU) was born 6 years ago, to favour contacts and build a concrete network of young professionals in art conservation, covering a wide range of expertises.
The firs three conferences were held between Italy and Belgium (Roma 2008, Palermo 2010 and Antwerp 2012), however for this year edition, the select hosting city was Agsu in Azerbaijan, with clear intention to, also in this fields, bridge Russian speaking countries and all the Middle East with Europe.
A well praised event, as conferences and workshop are an indispensable means to establish concrete relationships and share work experiences. Especially in a truly multidisciplinary enviroment such as that of art conservation and preservation where chemistry, physics, biology, restoration studies intermingle.
F. Alberghina, L. Damiani, S. Schiavone together with Art-Test and S.T.Art-Test took part to the workshop with the paper “How many layers of what? An integrated non-invasive approach for the understanding of painting’s stratigraphy” in the “Pigments and Paintings” section.
To know more about YOCOCU: http//www.yococu.com/
Will be inaugurated in a few days the monographic exposition of Jacopo Ligozzi “pittore universalissimo” (Verona 1547- Firenze 1627) at Galleria Palatina in Florence (27 May – 28 September 2014) realized jointly with Gabinetto dei Disegni e Stampe of the Uffizi.
The work of such talented artist, active for many years in Florence is thoroughly illustrated in several thematic sections such as Naturalia, Portraits, Historical painting and Religiuous painting.
Art-Test investigated 16 works, among the most relevant one, with several techniques such as Multilayer analysis, IR scanner reflectograpy and ED-XRF.
The no-profit e Authentication in Art (A.I.A.) Foundation, established in 2012, chaired by Prof. Dr Nico Schrijver, comprises a group of international art world professionals (including international collectors, art historians, art market professionals, financial institutions, legal advisers, trust & estate practitioners and other stakeholders in the international art market).
The Congress of 2014 was intended to come together to create a forum that can act to catalyse and promote best practices in art authentication. It was a rare and most needed opportunity to share what is happening in our world, however with some missing important stockholders, especially from the Southern European Countries.
See the detailed program:http:
(7-8-9 may 2014, Louman Museum, Den Haag)
You have time until the 20th of July to admire Pontormo’s restored “Sacra Conversazione”(also known as Pala Pucci) before it returns to its original venue, the Florentine church of San Michele in Visdomini. This masterpiece was highly praised by Giorgio Vasari, who wrote it was “the most notable panel ever made by Pontormo”. It was indeed a very innovative painting: the traditional scheme for this theme was disregarded, the figures scattered in all directions, creating a new balance and new strength lines.
This magnificent painting is currently in Palazzo Strozzi in the exposition “Pontormo e Rosso Fiorentino. Divergenti vie della Maniera” where one can admire, among others, Pontormo’s works and those of his friend Rosso Fiorentino.
Art-Test’s diagnostics campaign on this large panel painting was carried out in two steps, firstly scanner IR reflectography data acquisition was performed to visualize the underdrawing, then in the second phase UV fluorescence and Multilayer analysis where planned, in order to investigate the conservation state.
New insights on the life of the painting have emerged. Fluorescence analyses have revealed many interventions and changes, during previous restoration attempts. Several retouches and three coatings of varnish were applied of which the Multilayer has permitted a better, more detailed reading. Moreover, visualizing the first sketch and the pentimenti, has demonstrated how the painter had, since the very beginning, the general setting of his work well established. However, he still made numerous changes in the final phase, directly with the paintbrush.
The latest restoration, by Lisa Venerosi Pesciolini, brought it back to its original light! Visit the exposition and admire it.
The 11th of April a superb painting was presented to public as it became, through a highly generous donation of Bernardo Caprotti, part of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana collection.
We had the true privilege to investigate it with IR Scanner Reflectography, IR false color, UV fluorescenze and Multilayer Method. It resulted as one of the most amazing paintings we ever came to analyze.
It is now proposed, after a 7 years period of intense studies, as a painting by Leonardo.
The shocking image which appears in reflectography, showing the serene figure of a woman, superimposing to overwhelming “face of Christ”, which is the subject of the visible painting, provides an intense emotion which is not to forget.
The impressive attribution brought, as to be expected, a lot criticism. We invite you to go and see it live, and to have a look at the IR scanner image which is published in the book: “Il Caprotti di Caprotti”, by M. Zecchini, Marsilio Editore, 2013.
See details at:
We start chronologically from when in March, the diagnostics performed on the ‘Ratto delle Sabine’ by Giambologna, at the Galleria dell’Accademia, in Florence, was presented. This work, which took some time and many skills, since, among others, Xray, UltraSound and Geo-Radar (with the help of S.T. Art-Test) methodologies were employed, led to unveil and understand some crucial information which was essential to plan and perform the restorative intervention which now taking place under a curtain in the Colosso’s room at the Galleria.
The Colosso is in fact not a copy of the massive statue with is currently under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria a Firenze, but an amazing bozzetto, all by Giambologna himself, as large as 4 meters tall.The subject was reinterpreted as Rape of the Sabine Woman since it was originally intended just as a showcase for the f the artist’s ability to create a complex sculptural group including male as female subjects, young and old people in a tribute to Michelangelo’s exquisite formal principle of an ascending spiral.
Diagnostics was intended to see how Giambologna worked, with which materials and techniques, and reveal unexpected facts
See details at:
San Paolo Bank sponsored, this year as well, some restoration works of neglected or needing artworks. Among the most prestigious pieces the “Cristo in meditazione” by Ribera of the Galleria Palatina of Florence was restored by Anna Teresa Monti. The painting with the original signature, was covered by a thick varnish layer and was interested by several past interventions. Art-Test performed the Multilayer acquisition and the IR scanner reflectography, both at regular (on the entire surface) and at quadruple resolution. This last analysis was performed on a relatively small area including the left hand of the saint, where an unclear paint layer had to be further investigated to understand whether it was an original or a restoration layer. To this aim a very new technique was applied: the XRF scanner (in collaboration with S.T.Art-Test). A very high resolution map of the pigment in the investigated area can be achieved this way, and a quantitative analysis performed. This is a revolution in XRF data, since it gives a quantitative insight also in the investigation of the composition of the various superimposing layers. In this case it was possible to conclude not only that the paint layer was original, despite the slightly different colour, but also that the painter carried out the composition, not only the drawing, before deciding to change for a different pose of the hand.
See details at:
On last December 3rd and 4th, the conference “Robotic Innovation for Cultural Heritage” was held in Venice. Expert of robotic systems, scientists and professionals gathered to evaluate the potentials that this discipline has to offer to diagnostics and conservation of artworks, especially in difficult conditions.
A large interest was shown for automatic systems capable of performing structural and compositional analyses, like the XRF SCANNER, designed by Art-Test in collaboration with S.T.Art-Test.
With a remotely controlled movement, the device is capable of acquiring a sequence of XRF spectra at different positions, allowing to map the composition of areas, rather than points, with a non invasive and repeatable technique. The elements on the surface as well as those underneath are detected and precisely located.
During the three days of the Fair, Art-Test Firenze has presented an international exclusive novelty, the XRF scanner. In addition to the chemical characterization of surface painting materials, the scanner can obtain images of the colors hidden beneath them. Stay tuned for more details…
The advanced technology of the Multilayer® method has received growing interest, as well as the new device for microclimate monitoring, the GasLogger.
Manufactured by ExtraSolution Srl Capannori (LU) and distributed by Art-Test Florence, the tiny GasLogger (4,2 x 4,2 x 3,8 cm) is able to achieve the same performance of competing devices but with many additional advantages. At competitive costs, it is able to measure, record and wirelessly transmit the oxygen concentration, relative humidity and temperature, of any packaging, even non-transparent ones, also simultaneously on multiple samples. There is no need for wiring, it is therefore of immediate use in both anoxia treatments and for any existing display case, as well as in any environment that requires microclimate control.
Please feel free to contact us for more detailed information.
Bought at auction as copy, it was confirmed original with the help of the diagnostic analyses performed by Art-Test Florence
During the SACI Symposium “Recognizing original artworks”, the self-portrait of Johan Zoffany (1777) has been presented. It was sold at an auction as a copy and it has been recently restored. The artwork shows the typical liveliness of the painter’s touch and drew the attention of Susan Grundy, art historian and collector, and convinced distinguished professor Mina Gregori. >> Yet it was the diagnostic test campaign carried out on the painting, with chemical analysis of the pigments and the Multilayer technique for image stratigraphy, that fully confirmed the painting authorship. Reflectography and X-rays showed some in-progress changes, which rule out the chance of it being of a copy, whereas chemical analyses confirmed the use of pigments typical of the painter’s palette. Further, some details of the curious dress sported by the painter led Cristina Giorgetti, costume historian, to confirm that the painting precedes the self-portrait of Cortona, of which this one is probably a sketch.
The International Week for Cultural and Environmental Heritage, Florens 2012, is scheduled to take place in Florence from November 3 to 11. The programme (www.fondazioneflorens.it) includes, with more than 350 lecturers from all over the world, more than 40 meetings, lectio magistralis, round tables, events and urban installations, cultural happenings and musical events.
Il Salone dell’Arte e del Restauro (The Art and Restoration Fair) (www.salonerestaurofirenze.org) is scheduled during this week, and it dedicates a day, Saturday, 10th Nov, to significant case studies in the restoration of Florentine legacy. Among these, the restoration of the Pala Nerli by Filippino Lippi will be presented. Art-Test Florence was involved with thorough investigations, before restoration (UV fluorescence, multispectral infrared, Multilayer) and after, with a reflectography IR scan to study of the underdrawing and the painting genesis.
Art-Test is among the exhibitors at the Salone, and will be happy to welcome you at its stand (28F). If you are planning to come, please let us know and we will provide you with a complementary entrance ticket.
“Is there a rule to affirm with certainty whether a fine painting was made by the hands of one or another master, and what is the safest way to set up your very good judgment?” wrote, centuries ago, Filippo Baldinucci, the Florentine art historian to his friend Vincenzo Capponi.
The matter of attribution will be discussed at the International Symposium “Recognizing Originality in Old Master Paintings”, in Florence, at SACI International Centre for Art and Design, on Friday, Oct. 12. During this special day, three beautiful paintings of the XVII and XVIII century will be exposed – “Self-Portrait” attributed to Johan Zoffany, “Portrait of a philosopher” by an anonymous painter, manner of Caravaggio, and “Countess of Oxford” attributed to Anthony Van Dyck – and international experts, including Art-Test Florence, will relate on this subject.
To see the full program clickon the picture below:
“Self-portrait”, attr. J. Zoffany
“Portrait of a philosopher”, manner of Caravaggio.
“Countess of Oxford”, attr. to A. Van Dyck
With an excellent example of museum management, the Museo Civico of Montepulciano puts technology at visitors’ service offering an absolutely innovative opportunity to navigate the secrets of one of its finest pieces: the “Portrait of a Gentleman” recently investigated by Art-Test Firenze, restored by Mary Lippi, and attributed to Caravaggio by Prof. Massimo Pulini.
Too often technical reports by art historians, diagnostics experts and conservators are stored and forgotten. To the contrary, the Fondazione Musei Senesi and the Municipality of Montepulciano have chosen an innovative way to share this information to the benefit of the visiting public.
An interactive installation, in Italian and in English, narrates the complex story of the painting, and provides additional content.
Thanks to the touchscreen display and its intuitive navigation, it is possible to deepen the knowledge on the masterpiece by flipping as through a book, scrolling and zooming as desired to see the details of most interesting images.
Of four sections, the last one is reserved to the restoration intervention. It describes both the cleaning operation of the painting surface, which allowed its readability, and the complete diagnostic investigation performed by Art-Test. In this chapter the visitor has the opportunity to learn in a simple and immediate way the wide range of diagnostic analyses performed.
The UV Fluorescence method, the exclusive Art-Test patented Multilayer image stratigraphy; the IR Reflectography; the X-radiography: they all revealed more information about the deeper structures of the painting, confirming its compatibility with Caravaggio’s period.
In the catalog it is explained how the canvas, which is part of the Gioviana’s Series in the Uffizi, was attributed to Caravaggio by John Spike in 1995, and how it was recently confirmed in this proposal by Gianni Papi, who also recognizes in the portrait, not the Cardinal Baronius, as stated by the writing, but Benedetto Giustiniani.
Moreover, the volume allows us to read in details the outcomes of the diagnostic procedure performed by Art-Test Florence, and to discover the interesting features which came to light.
There we can read about an unusual specific weight of the artwork; about the outcomes of the analysis of pigments, thanks to the ED-XRF technique; and observe how the canvas certainly underwent extensive restoration with adjustments, in the IR reflectography and UV fluorescence images, which show such important changes.
But the most interesting observation is undoubtedly derived from the analyses performed with the patented Multilayer method. This unique technique permits to visualize the several different layers of the painting. In this case the image in Layer 5 shows the clear reading of a pre-existing text and, in Layer 7, the sketch of the Master, who clearly defined the contours of the cardinal’s robe, with a hood-style neck.
Of course, we do not wish to anticipate more about the technical data and related images, which are presented in the catalog. We wish scholars and anybody else interested in Caravaggio a good reading!
From Brazil the great succes of Caravaggio’s exhibition contributes to update the studies on this master.
While in Italy we keep talking about the alleged attribution to Caravaggio of a hundred drawings, Brazil welcomes with extraordinary enthusiasm the temporary exhibition “Caravaggio and his followers” that includes 6 paintings of the Master and 14 works of the “Caravaggeschi”, i.e. followers of his manner, who lived during his time and were deeply inspired by him (to know more about all the exhibited artworks, click here, under “Material Complementar “).
Extended until July 22 at Fiat Casa de Cultura in Belo Horizonte, the exhibition will then move from August 1st to September 23rd in the prestigious MASP – Art Museum of Sao Paulo – the most important art center in Latin America – and from there it will be transferred to Argentina, to the Museo Nacional in Buenos Aires on December 15th, 2012.
The prime mover of the exhibition is Rossella Vodret, one of the leading experts on Caravaggio in Italy and Head of the “Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico per il Polo Museale della Città di Roma”. In Italy the curator is George Leone, and in Brazil Fabio Malgahaes. A very important cultural appointment for a country, Brazil, that actively seeks to strengthen exchange of experiences with Italy, which is among the top five countries in terms of visiting tourists.
The aim of this temporary exhibition is to highlight the revolutionary way of painting of Caravaggio and the transformations that visual art underwent in the early seventeenth century in Rome. It is a unique opportunity to see, gathered together, a series of masterpieces created in that context and otherwise not easily presented to the international public.
Furthermore, as stated in its title “Caravaggio and his followers: confirmations and problems”, the event is also an important occasion to update the overview on the scientific studies on Caravaggio and his followers.
In this perspective, we gladly highlight the extensive catalog of the exhibition, which stands as a useful and comprehensive study tool.
The volume analyzes in detail each artwork on display. It illustrates the reasons for the proposal of attribution, if still uncertain, and it offers a unique insight into how the artist worked and thought, through the diagnostic investigation carried out on the canvas and illustrated in the volume, presenting data and technical analysis of traces lost over the centuries, hidden by layers of paint or varnish, and eventually brought back to light by restoration or diagnostic tests.
Art-Test takes an active part in this, having provided a detailed contribution to the catalog. The scientific investigations on the exhibited work “Portrait of Cardinal”, from the Uffizi’s Collection, were carried out by our labs, and a summary of their interpretation is to be found in the volume.
“The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence” returns to Alba and reveals an apparent self-portrait of the Master.
The restoration of Titian’s masterpiece “The Martyrdom of St Lawrence” required a complex work, lasting about a year time. But diagnostics and conservation intervention, funded by the Bank of Alba, breathes new life into Titian’s work. In fact, the canvas was in very bad conditions, and it was just the timely restoration of Nicola Restauri, a specialized company based in Aramengo, which saved it from an irretrievable conservation state. To know more about the genesis of this masterpiece, the painting technique used by Titian was investigated by Art-Test researchers who performed their examination just after the last cleaning step. Our labs were asked to perform IR scanner reflectography, with our exclusive device designed and realized in-house, that easily allows a high spatial and tonal resolution metric acquisition even on such large surfaces. The investigation revealed that in large areas of the artwork, there were no changes in the composition thus confirming the fascinating greatness of this Old Master.
Furthermore, an intriguing new detail has come to light, previously unnoticed by scholars: an apparent self-portrait of the Renaissance painter, swathed in a turban, tucked away in the bottom left hand corner of the work.
This is a restoration of immeasurable importance for Italy’s artistic heritage. The painting went on display on Thursday May 17th, in Alba, where it will remain until December 2012. Then, it will be returned to its historic home, the Church of the Jesuits in Venice that hosts it from the middle of the XVII century.
From the Gazzetta d’Alba newspaper: http://www.gazzettadalba.it/2012/05/un-restauro-difficile/
On Saturday May 19, in the beautiful location of the ancient Cenacolo di Fuligno museum in Florence, was held the official presentation of “Il Crocifisso del Fuligno”.
The book documents the restoration intervention performed on the precious wooden crucifix , unattributed but dated to 1495-1500, and close to Benedetto da Maiano school.
The publication goes through the work of Lisa Venerosi Pesciolini, restorer, and the latest methods of diagnostic analyses applied by Art-Test.
Now, after this accurate intervention, the crucifix has returned to its place of honor, back inside Fuligno’ s Cenacolo site, just between Perugino’s “Ultima Cena” and “Crocifissione con la Vergine e San Girolamo” .
Caravaggio, the very First Medusa: University of Uppsala, April 25, 2012. Dr. Federica Gasparrini, Professor at University of Florence, and Dr. Eng. Anna Pelagotti, for Art-Test, went through the scientific research and images showing the techniques used by Caravaggio on the two Medusas, Murtola and Medici’s one. The lecture has showed incontrovertible findings on diagnostic tests claiming that beautiful Murtola Medusa anticipates the famous one on display at the Uffizi.
<< click on the image for a link to the event
A breakthrough exclusive technology (patented by Art-Test) that produces an image stratigraphy of the painting surface. A non-invasive method that allows to look underneath varnishes and retouches without the need to physically remove them. The ultimate solution for conservators and art historians!