Art is not far from war. War is not far from Art

Apr 23, 2024 | Art Word, Art-Test News, Cutural Heritage

When Nazis and fascists looted homes and churches, the artworks were often repainted to disguise them. Through diagnostic analysis, the history can be uncovered.

You might wonder how our world, the world of art scientists, could be involved with war and with freedom?

Possibly, we are in a time when the word “conflict” is overused. However, even though it all may seems very distant and after all irrelevant to us, wars claim human and cultural victims alike and has an massive impact over art and culture. Just as a man is killed and his existence erased, by destroying a country’s artistic and cultural heritage, the document of human existence is erased.

April 25th is a historic day for us Italians, it is the day we remember freedom from Nazi-fascism.

Reflecting on this date, dear to us, we are reminded that this year is also the tenth anniversary of the film “Monuments Men”.

We believe that the film significantly influenced the public’s perception of the role of the art “saviors” and served as an eye-opener for many regarding Hitler’s decision to systematically plunder art from other cultures. Even after realising he couldn’t achieve his goal, he opted to conceal the loot in mines, poised to destroy it all eventually. While some may have considered these artworks as mere “selected works,” they were, in reality, profound reflections of other lives.

But what role do diagnosticians play in all this?

During our investigation campaigns, we have also analysed paintings that in those years, when the Nazis and fascists looted homes and churches, were transformed into something else. Common practice was to repaint them with banal and unrecognizable subjects or to abrade the signature.

A radiograph, a reflectograph can bring to light what others concealed. It is more difficult, however, to recover signs of abraded signatures, but there is hope! It is possible that something can still be found by conducting special analyses capable of bringing back traces of pigment that have since apparently vanished.

To remind us of what were the spoliations practiced by the Nazis, there are also two works preserved in the Palatine Gallery in Florence on which we have some time ago conducted investigations.

Perhaps, however, you have never seen them like this:

Frans Floris, Adam and Eva (and a cat) I saw a Cat – Art-Test
Foto credits: @Electa in Arte Liberata Capolavori salvati dalla guerra. 1937/1947

And on the cover

Carlo Dolci, Madonna and Child (with a surprise) A hidden magician! – Art-Test

Foto credits: @fotoforum

Emanuela Massa
Emanuela Massa