JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 223 to 235)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 223 to 235)

BOOK REVIEWS

A. Elena Charola, Margaret Holben Ellis, Richard Newman, Monona Rossol, & Walsh Judith


C. A.PRICE, STONE CONSERVATION: AN OVERVIEW OF CURRENT RESEARCH. Santa Monica, Calif.: Getty Conservation Institute, 1996. 72 pages, softcover, $25. ISBN 0-8923-389-4. Available from Getty Trust Publications, P.O. Box 49659; Dept. GS37, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049-0659.

William Ginell's foreword to Stone Conservation: An Overview of Current Research prompts the author to “give us his subjective viewpoint on what is being done right, what areas of current research should be continued or accelerated, and what new directions should be addressed that would promote an increase in effectiveness of stone conservation.” C. A. Price's preface focuses this ambitious request to a more modest undertaking. He limits the scope of the book to the major publications of approximately five years prior to the summer of 1994, when the manuscript was written. He ends the preface by indicating that the references given are illustrative rather than definitive because the book “is intended to give a strategic overview of the whole field and to identify areas of strength and weakness where further research should be focused.” The book's introduction describes the apparent pessimistic attitude “among many people who are involved in stone conservation … that research has stagnated; that we are not making any real progress in the way we care for our historic buildings and monuments.”

Chapter 1, “Stone Decay,” begins by listing the most important ways of characterizing stone, continues with the methodologies that describe and measure decay, and ends with the causes of decay. The causes fall into three categories: air pollution, salts, and biodeterioration. The second chapter, “Putting It Right: Preventive and Remedial Treatments,” succinctly discusses the state of the art in preventive conservation and conservation interventions, such as cleaning, desalination, consolidation, and surface coatings. Discussion of the latter ranges from water repellents to biocides, including such topics as reaction and crystal growth inhibitors and semiconductors. However, while the author's experience with MTMOS is reflected in the detailed discussion of that material, TEOS—far more widely used in other European countries where it is commonly called ethyl silicate—is barely mentioned, and important improvements to that material such as those described in Wendler et al. (1991) are not discussed. The third chapter, “Do They Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Treatments,” deals with two topics: characterization of the treated stone and its long-term performance. The issues raised in this chapter, such as the choice of tests used to evaluate the treated stone and the problem of documentation (i.e., the difficulty of creating and keeping up centralized databases of treatment documentation) are extremely pertinent.

In chapter 4, the author presents a balanced discussion of three topics: responsible use of surface coatings and consolidants, retreatment, and recording. The last chapter, “Doing Better: Increasing the Effectiveness of Research,” discusses publications, conferences, standards, and quality diffusion of research and its diffusion to other disciplines. The author also proposes some for improvements and advises that “funding bodies must be prepared to appoint research managers whose judgment they trust, and then be prepared to accept that judgment concerning the quality of research being conducted. … They must be seeking value for money, which entails both quality and quantity [of publications], rather than quantity alone.” The short conclusion states that “a great deal of activity is occurring and advances are being made in many different areas.” It is obvious that this conclusion was drawn from the author's experience rather than from the book itself, which covers too short a period to reflect these advances.

Reviewing this publication was not easy because it was meant to reflect a subjective viewpoint, even though the author did try to balance his “own prejudices.” The volume presents a good image—a snapshot—of the state of knowledge in the field at the time of this writing. It is particularly useful for anyone outside the field interested in learning about stone conservation, but it is less useful for those already working in the field.

In this reviewer's opinion, the most revealing section is the one on collaborative programs in the last chapter. The fact that the European Union had to enforce collaboration between relevant European Union research institutions to ensure that it occurred speaks for itself. And most of the problems listed in that chapter—for example, poor quality in publications—can be easily understood when taking that fact into consideration.

The conclusion ends with an accurate description of the problem: “that some research is poorly focused and that resources are not being used to the best effect. The resources available for stone research are small by comparison with the magnitude of the problem, and we cannot afford to waste them.” But the author fails to identify the causes that make this research poorly focused. To begin with, the ultimate object of research in stone conservation is the preservation of monuments. Not only are monuments all different, but their value changes with time and fashion, so that the resources available for their study and eventual preservation efforts wax and wane accordingly. Compounding this situation is general human shortsightedness, of which the best current example is the problem presented by the change of date in computers as we start a new century—a problem created only a few decades ago by computer scientists who are trained to think into the future.

C. A. Price's criticisms are valid, but improvements will come in time when humans take a consistent and persistent approach to the problem—that is, develop good management. In this reviewer's opinion the field of stone conservation has succeeded amazingly well taking into consideration the points above.

A. ElenaCharolaIndependent Scientific Consultant, 8 Barstow Rd., Great Neck, N.Y. 11021

REFERENCE

Wendler, E., D. D.Klemm, and R.Snethlage. 1991. Consolidation and hydrophobic treatment of natural stone. In Durability of building materials and components: Proceedings of the 5th international conference, Brighton, U.K., ed.J. M.Baker, P. J.Nixon, A. J.Majumdar, and H.Davies. London: Chapman & Hall. 203–12.

NICHOLAS STANLEYPRICE, M. KIRBYTALLEYJR., AND ALLESSANDRA MELUCCOVACCARO, EDS.HISTORICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES IN THE CONSERVATION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1996. 520 pages, hardcover $56, ISBN 0-8923-6250-2, softcover $39.95, ISBN 0-8923-6398-3. Available from Getty Trust Publications, P.O. Box 49659; Dept. GS37, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049–0659.

Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage is the first in a series, Readings in Conservation, intended to make available historic texts on conservation to students of conservation and art history, conservators, and the general public. To this end, a team of three editors selected what have been deemed to be influential and significant writings and has organized them thematically and in roughly chronological order, from the “roots of appreciation and studies of works of art during the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries to the emergence of a modern conservation philosophy” (parts 1–3), rounded out by readings on historical perspective (part 4), restoration and antirestoration (part 5), reintegration of losses (part 6), the idea of patina (part 7), and the role of science and technology (part 8). The editors' clear and rational voices are heard throughout the preface and introductions of each part. Rather like a concerto with three contrasting movements, each editor attempts to harmonize a potential cacophony of conflicting tunes. They have succeeded admirably.

One editor and certainly a maestro, Nicholas Stanley Price, wrote the preface, which provides information on the book's orchestration, an explanation of how the texts were chosen, a clarification of the terminology used throughout the book, and helpful suggestions on how the book can be used as a teaching tool—in all, a modest assessment of an enormous cooperative undertaking. A close reading of Price's description of how the texts were nominated—first by 3 and ultimately by 15 conservation professionals—reviewed, and selected for inclusion in the volume explains the asymmetrical length of part 1, which is four times longer than any of the other parts. It would appear that the readings included in part 1 were excluded from the selection process described above and were the choices of a second editor and accomplished art historian, M. Kirby Talley Jr. Naturally, this different procedure resulted in the idiosyncratic tenor of part 1 and its annotated bibliography, a consequence discussed in more detail below.

M. Kirby Talley Jr. and Allessandra Melucco Vaccaro, the noted Italian archaeologist and conservation educator, wrote two and six introductions, respectively, and compiled their accompanying annotated bibliographies. The book's 46 readings and over 100 bibliographic citations are intricately interwoven thematically, but, at the same time, are wildly disparate, thus making Talley's and Vaccaro's insightful introductions indispensable for the reader.

It is important that readers recognize from the outset that the selections differ in many ways, most obviously in source, language, and date. Unlike other “readings” series, the selections are not consistently drawn from erudite essays and criticism, nor are the majority written by academics. Many have been ferreted out from far-flung sources, including oral presentations at professional conferences, occasional publications, specialized periodicals, journalistic reportage, lectures to special interest groups, popular manifestos, and doctoral dissertations. As a consequence, the audience to whom these selections were first addressed differs drastically as well. The ear of the reader must make a contextual adjustment from one reading to the next in order to distinguish the nuances between scholarly fact and the 30-year-old recollections of an agent provocateur.

Language is another way in which the selections differ. A team of 7 undertook translations of more than 15 texts from Italian, German, and French for the benefit of the English-only reader. Especially appreciated are the writings of Cesare Brandi and Paul Philippot, who were instrumental in establishing the fundamentals of current conservation thinking. The translations also underscore the limitations that language-challenged conservators face by providing a humbling glimpse of the riches of conservation literature written in other languages.

Then there is the disparity in the ages of the selections. Even when the most motivated conservator has found the original Austrian version of Alois Riegl's Der moderne Denkmalkultus: Sein Wesen und seine Entstehung and is struggling with the author's complex philosophical arguments printed in a gothic typeface of 1903, the problem arises of period language. Victorian prose can hinder one's understanding of many of the selections contained in this volume and in the citations contained in the annotated bibliographies—for example, those of Walter Pater, whose writing has been described as “effulgently purple prose” (Kimbell 1995). Similarly, the 19th-century tone of Berenson's writings strikes our modern sensibilities as “didactic condensation” (Freedberg 1989). While the short biographies of the authors at the end of the book help orient the reader to their time and milieu, once again, the agility of the reader's mind is challenged by these fundamental differences in the selections.

The temptation to be resisted when reviewing a compilation of writings such as this one is to argue with the individual points of view of the authors chosen for inclusion. The reviewer of such a tome needs to assess the collected worth of the texts selected and the degree to which they successfully address the needs of the identified audience for the book. Thus, it was possible to rise above Berenson's “stiff-jointed, starchy prose” and “self conscious Paterisms” (Freedberg 1989) and Ruskin's hysterical nihilism and press on to consider the book's overall strengths and weaknesses.

While not serious weaknesses, two curious aspects of the book are given away in the preface by some apologetic comments, which resemble premature predictions of what aspects of the books might be subject to criticism.

First must be the book's emphasis on the Western intellectual tradition, which, as Price readily admits, is “the subject of continuing debate,” noting that “certain influential strands within it are currently out of favor.” He is, of course, referring to connoisseurship, observing that it is “temporarily unfashionable in art historical studies.” Since the avowed purpose of the volume is to provide the “classics,” which upon rereading will be “useful in putting our everyday problems into perspective,” his caution at first seems just a tiresome side effect of the prevailing winds of political correctness; an obligation to take dutiful note of DWEM (dead white European male) dominance in connoisseurship (and conservation) studies. If this is the case, his concern is unfounded since, one hopes, conservators will eagerly seek the wisdom of those who can best clarify conservation dilemmas without regard to the authors' ethnicity, gender, or biological viability.

One suspects, however, that the preface's preemptive maneuver is a deflection of the inevitable observation that the contents of part 1 are more incongruous than incorrect. Because they apparently are the choice of M. Kirby Talley Jr., they naturally resemble the personal library of—who else?—a connoisseur of connoisseurship. Talley has written extensively about connoisseurship and its role in conservation (Talley 1997). His affection for and admiration of Bernard Berenson, who garners a whopping thirteen citations between selected readings by him, on him, and those in the annotated bibliography, is reflected in Talley's literary style and preferences; like Berenson, he finds Pater's, The Renaissance, “life enhancing.”1 Even the title of his section, “The Eye's Caress,” makes elegant reference to Berenson's belief that our “retinal impressions” are translated into “tactile values” when responding to works of art.

Because “the man people love to hate” has been transformed into the “perfect paradigm of the alleged shortcomings of elitist art history,” it would be easy to dismiss Berenson's preeminence in part 1, as well as the presence of Ruskin and Gombrich, with sniffs of revisionist disapproval (Calo 1994). But that is not the point of the observation that part 1 constitutes a book-within-a-book, an exquisite exposition, whose editor burns with the hard, gemlike flame of a missionary who would have us morph into BB.

I, for one, am quite happy to accept that, 110 years after his arrival in Italy, Berenson's “Four Gospels” on early Italian art should be required reading for all art history students and certainly for conservators dealing with Italian Renaissance paintings. While “the practice of connoisseurship is at an absolute nadir,” according to Talley, the purpose of Historical and Philosophical Issues is not to champion connoisseurship's cause per se. For conservators attempting to sort out conservation controversies, Talley's stand-alone introduction serves as an excellent synopsis of connoisseurship, even though he makes no secret of his dislike of the historical positivists. Because the reader is told by Vaccaro in part 3, however, that the role of the connoisseur has been taken over by the historian, some acknowledgment of the opposite camp is in order. Talley's conciliation is to discuss Gary Schwartz's article, “Connoisseurship: The Penalty of Ahistoricism,” Perhaps Schwartz's article could have been promoted from its place in the annotated bibliography, if only to describe philological methodologies of connoisseurship. Given conservators' intense interest in past and present documentation, the appropriate use of historic documents in connoisseurship could also be acknowledged.

Again in the preface, as if anticipating negative comment, perhaps even from the Getty's own Conservation Institute, Price makes note of Vaccaro's healthy skepticism of the success of science and technology in developing conservation treatments, diplomatically suggesting that her stance will be a “rich topic for discussion.”2 Even she is of the opinion that the role of science in conservation is controversial. Any alleged ambivalence on her part, however, is more than compensated by her illuminating introductions to “The Idea of Patina” and “The Emergence of Modern Conservation Theory.”

The selections in part 2, “The Original Intent of the Artist,” concentrate almost exclusively on the issues surrounding 20th-century art and seem to have been added as an afterthought. Part 2's annotated bibliography is also conspicuously lean and has been merged with that of part 1. David Carrier's Preservation as Interpretation (1991) and David Summers' Intentions in the History of Art (1986) come to mind as possible inclusions for part 2, as does Gombrich's “Aims and Limits of Iconology.”

Which brings up the subject of conservation literature as a whole: Do not “readings” in conservation presuppose “writings” in conservation? Does there exist today a corpus of conservation literature representative of the discipline? This volume roars with a resounding “yea.” But, some think there could be more. Barbara Appelbaum, in her lead article in the November 1997 AIC News, observes that, in terms of AIC publications at least, conservation writings seem confined to a limited number of categories. She calls for new parameters and new topics for conservation publications.

Also, given the visual aspect of conservation, can conservation be comprehended through its writings alone? Do conservators subscribe to Thomas Carlyle's belief that “All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been … is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books”? Do we think it possible, as did Diderot, to catalog everything there is to know about something that has to be seen to be understood? Here it would seem that Berenson has the last word. To “know” something that is primarily seen and felt—in the case of conservation, the visual result of actions, whether those of people or the passage of time—all the senses and accumulated experiences of the viewer are called into play (Talley 1990). In becoming conservation connoisseurs, we must fortify our reserves of knowledge by embracing all the humanities. All the more reason then, when settling down for a good “read,” one feels compelled to thank the editors for gathering these texts together for our convenience and contemplation.

Margaret HolbenEllisConservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 14 E. 78th St., New York, N.Y. 10021


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am grateful for the assistance of M. Brigitte Yeh in the preparation of this review.


NOTES

1. Note the similarity in both philosophy and writing style between Talley's evocative description of a full moon as representative of the quest of Bernard Berenson (Talley 1992) and the conclusion of Pater (1894).

2. Surely if his book, The Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art: Treatment, Repair and Restoration, is “the Bible” of conservators and restorers, more homage needs to be paid to the recently deceased Harold Plenderleith.



REFERENCES

Calo, M. A.1994. Bernard Berenson and the 20th century. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Carrier, D.1991. Preservation as interpretation: Principles of art history writing, University Park: Pennsylvania State University.

Freedberg, S. J.1989. Berenson, connoisseurship, and the history of art. New Criterion7(6): 8.

Gombrich, E. H.1972. Aims and limits of iconology. In Symbolic images: Studies in the art of the Renaissance, vol. 2, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1–25.

Kimbell, R.1995. Art vs. aestheticism: The case of Walter Pater. New Criterion13(9): 11.

Pater, W.1894. The Renaissance: Studies in art and poetry. London: Macmillan.

Summers, D.1986. Intentions in the history of art. New Literary History17: 305–21.

Talley, M. K.Jr.1990. The humanistic foundation in the training of restorers. In The Graduate Conservator in Employment: Expectations and Realities, Proceedings of the Interim Meeting of the Working Group on Training in Conservation and Restoration, ICOM Committee for Conservation. Amsterdam: Opleiding Restauratoren.

Talley, M. K.Jr.1992. Under a full moon with BB: Building a “House of Life.”Museum Management and Curatorship11: 347–73.

Talley, M. K.Jr.1997. Miscreants and Hotentots: Restorers and restoration attitudes and practices in 17th- and 18th-century England. Museum Management and Curatorship16(1): 35–44.

WALTER C.McCRONE, JUDGMENT DAY FOR THE TURIN SHROUD. Chicago: Microscope Publications, 1996. 341 pages, hardcover $36. Available from Microscope Publications, Division of McCrone Research Institute, 2820 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago , Ill. 60616-3292. ISBN 0-9049-215-6.

This book reviews scientific research on the Shroud of Turin from the 1960s to the present more thoroughly than any single publication to date. But that is not the primary purpose of the book. Walter McCrone was one of the original members of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), which was formed in 1977. He dissented from the official findings of STURP, from which he resigned in 1980, and he wrote this book (as stated on the dustjacket) to “ensure that a full record of [the author's] work is available for all to evaluate.” While certainly not objective in tone, McCrone seems to have fairly well represented the work of other researchers, primarily those of STURP, and the book makes interesting and thought-provoking reading. An amalgam of scientific exposition with digressions into the history of art and artists' materials, personal memoir, and religiopolitical exposé, this book stands in a class by itself, much like its author, a scientist best known to conservators and conservation scientists as a teacher and champion of the polarizing light microscope, one of the fundamental research tools in the study of works of art. The battlefield-diary tone of much of the book must be understood in the context of McCrone's role as STURP persona non grata, the lone member who questioned the authenticity of the shroud.

Published by McCrone's own company, the book would have benefited tremendously from thorough editing and proofreading. Its organization is somewhat confusing, and there is much repetition of material, which may test the patience of some readers. A good place for the reader to begin is the last appendix, which could serve as an abstract for the book.

The subject of this book, the Shroud of Turin, is a piece of linen with full-length, nearly complete front and back images of a man. The man is not clothed, and there are apparent blood stains on the hands and feet. The first appearance of the shroud dates to about 1356, when it was displayed in a newly built church in Lirey, France, as the shroud in which Jesus had been wrapped after his crucifixion. At the time of its second exhibition, in 1389, a letter written by a French bishop claimed that the shroud was a cunningly painted fake, as attested, so the letter states, by the painter who created it. The shroud has been restored to some extent, and contains scorch marks and water stains from a 1532 fire. From 1453 the shroud was owned by the Royal House of Savoy; since 1984, it has been owned by the Catholic Church.

In the early part of the book, McCrone summarizes research on the shroud by two groups of Italian scholars, the first in 1969 and the second in 1973, quoting at some length (with his own commentary) from their reports. Some members of the 1973 commission (whose reports were issued in 1976) concluded that the image was an artistic creation. In 1973, a Swiss forensic scientist, Max Frei, took about two dozen samples from the shroud by pressing pieces of sticky tape on various parts of the surface. In 1978 and 1981 papers, he identified pollen from these tapes that indicated the shroud had spent a considerable amount of time in Turkey and Palestine, apparently pushing its history back beyond its first recorded appearance in 14th-century France. Frei's results have been called fraudulent by some, as McCrone discusses in an appendix.

McCrone was invited to submit a research proposal on the shroud in 1974, but in part as a result of the 1976 publication of the Italian commission's examination, did not carry out any work. In 1977, McCrone joined the newly formed STURP group. Members of STURP carried out a series of nondestructive tests over a five-day period in 1978 and took 32 pressed tape samples for later analysis, 14 from nonimage areas, 12 from body-image areas, and 6 from blood-image areas. These samples were split into two duplicate sets. McCrone's research was based on one of these sets, and he describes his work on this sample. His final conclusions were that the shroud was a painting done in very thin red ochre/glue paint, enhanced with vermilion in blood-stained areas.

McCrone then reviews the work of other members of STURP. He quotes some of the published results of STURP, along with his own commentary on those results. He is convinced that many of the scientists involved in the research felt at the outset that the shroud was authentic and that their own conclusions and rebuttals of McCrone's work came more from this underlying belief than any real scientific evidence that they have produced, or from any significant deficiencies in McCrone's research. The reader will have to form his or her own opinions.

Although radiocarbon dating had been proposed as a crucial type of analysis for scientific study of the shroud as early as 1973, it was not until 1988 (with the general acceptance of the accelerator mass spectrometry procedure that required much smaller samples than the traditional analytical procedures) that radiocarbon dating was carried out. The results, from three labs, gave a date of 1325+/−65 (95% confidence level). While many accepted this as the final word on the authenticity of the shroud, challenges to the validity of the radiocarbon results came out immediately, as McCrone details.

The most fascinating part of the this book is McCrone's cordial correspondence with the late Father Peter Rinaldi, an ambassador of sorts between the Catholic Church and the various groups that carried out scientific research on the shroud. McCrone dedicated his book to Rinaldi, who was a staunch defender of the shroud's authenticity until his death in 1993. McCrone includes much of his correspondence, which took place between 1974 and 1989.

The questions addressed by all of the scientific research on the shroud fall into two general categories: What is its date? How was the image formed? All would agree that radiocarbon dating is the only direct way of resolving the first question. As already noted, the results of the radiocarbon dating have been (and continue to be) called into question. The 1995 American Chemical Society Archaeological Chemistry symposium featured one paper, by A. Adler, that questioned the radiocarbon results, noting that the samples tested came from a water-stained area near a scorch mark and was not representative of the overall shroud fabric. A second paper by D. Kouznetsov, A. Ivanov, and P. Veletsky, concluded that modifications which need to be applied to the published shroud radiocarbon date could actually push its origin back to the first or second century A.D. A paper by A. Jull, D. Donahue, and P. Damon, researchers from one of the facilities at which the shroud dating had been carried out, challenged the statements of the previous paper, arguing that they were based on unverifiable research. (All these papers are published in Archaeological Chemistry, ed. M. Orna [Washington, D.C.: ACS, 1996].) Only the pollen data, which have also been called into question, provide any direct evidence that the shroud has any history outside of France and Italy.

The more highly debated question is how the image was formed. Among those involved in the STURP investigations, only McCrone concluded that the image was a painting, although some of the 1969 Italian researchers had come to the same conclusion. His case, to this reviewer and many others, is a strong one. But there are some contradictory analytical results that, at the moment, are difficult to reconcile. For example, blood has been positively identified in the so-called blood-stained image areas by some and not detected by others, including McCrone. McCrone made a reasonably convincing case for the presence of a protein medium, which he specifically identified as glue. Others, however, did not detect protein, including Adler, who examined image area fibers by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microscopy, a very sensitive technique that one would think would detect protein if it were present in the quantity implied by McCrone's discussion. But not exactly the same fibers were studied, so it is difficult to conclude that protein is definitely not present, as those researchers do. McCrone notes that the painting technique he postulated—dilute glue-bound colors—was well-known in the 14th century, which is certainly true. There is no precedent among surviving paintings of the period for the negative image that the shroud shows (so-called since a photographic negative of the image shows a more or less normal light-and-dark relationship). McCrone argues that the degree of skill required to create such a painted image was not beyond that of accomplished 14th-century painters. It still remains that works by artists he mentions from the period do not show the degree of realism that the shroud portrait appears to show even without considering the “negative” nature of the image. Does the dilute paint and yellowed medium that McCrone identified account for the image? Or is this paint simply restoration over a faint image produced by some unknown mechanism that locally oxidized cellulose in the fabric, as some have argued? Perhaps scientific analysis has not yet provided an adequate answer to these questions. Many theories have been proposed for the image-forming process, some quite fanciful, but McCrone does not review these in any detail. The reader will have to pursue these elsewhere, in the original STURP papers and others.

The last word has clearly not been written on the shroud, but of the many books that address scientific research on the subject, this is the most thorough to date. At the very least, it makes interesting reading, no matter what one's personal opinion might be.

RichardNewmanDepartment of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass. 02115MARKGOTTSEGEN, ED., ASTM STANDARDS FOR THE PERFORMANCE, QUALITY AND HEALTH LABELING OF ARTISTS' PAINTS AND RELATED MATERIALS, West Conshohocken, Pa.: American Society for Testing and Materials, 1997. 92 pages, softcover, $42. Available from ASTM, 100 Barr Harbor Dr., West Conshohocken, Pa. 19428-2959. ISBN 0-8031-1838-4.

This book is a collection of reprints of standards for artists' materials that were developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Founded in 1898, ASTM develops and publishes standards for materials, products, systems, and services. The standards are voluntary full-consensus standards, and anyone with an interest and expertise in the area of art materials can join ASTM and vote on these standards. However, the majority of the members of D-1, the Paint and Related Coatings, Materials, and Applications Committee, are art and paint materials manufacturers. It would improve the process if more conservators and educators became involved.

This book reproduces 14 standards. Acquiring these standards directly from ASTM either individually or in the huge books in which they are compiled would cost hundreds of dollars. In this book, however, Mark Gottsegen has compiled the standards relevant to art materials for a fraction of the cost.

The standards compiled in this book include: D 4236–94, Practice for Labeling Art Materials for Chronic Hazards: This standard is the pivot on which an entire consumer product revolution has turned. For many years, all consumer products including art materials were labeled only in accordance with the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, which required manufacturers to provide warning labels for acute hazards, defined by short-term animal tests. Products with long-term hazards or chronic hazards—even products containing carcinogens such as asbestos—could legally be labeled “nontoxic.”

Since 1983, there has been an ASTM voluntary chronic hazard labeling standard for art materials. Many manufacturers, however, ignored the standard. Then, in 1988, the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA) passed by Congress required “chronic” hazards to be labeled. It incorporated by reference the standard as it existed in that year, D 4236–88.

It is now illegal to sell an art material in the United States that does not reference ASTM D 4236 on the label. You can still find nonconforming products, especially foreign products, on the shelves. But simply checking the materials you purchase for a label reference to ASTM D 4236 should assure you that the product's warning labels are consistent with this standard.

This book includes the most recent version of the standard, D 4236–94. There are a few changes from the 1988 version, including some editorial and numbering changes, additional definitions, and longer list of “chronic hazard statements,” which are to be used as hazard warnings when appropriate.

This book would be even more complete if both the current and the 1988 versions of D 4236 were included along with a copy of LHAMA. Providing readers with both the standards and the law would enable them to find some interesting differences between the two. For example, the ASTM standards allow a choice of methods for providing consumers with additional information. These include: (1) providing a 24-hour telephone number; (2) instructing consumers to contact a physician; or (3) instructing consumers to call their local poison control centers. The law, on the other hand, requires a telephone number on the label. The law takes precedence, of course, over the standard. Readers should know that art products sold without a telephone number on the label do not conform to the law and are misbranded.

D 4302–96a, Specification for Artists' Oil, Resin-Oil, and Alkyd Paints: This standard sets both performance and labeling requirements for art paints. The specifications cover the pigments, vehicles, and additives. In addition, there are requirements for pigment identification, lightfastness, consistency, and drying time. Paints that meet this standard may reference D 4302 on their labels if the label identifies each pigment by common name, by Color Index name, and any additional terms necessary. The standard also provides the lightfastness rating.

D 5067–95a, Specificiation for Artists' Watercolor Paints; D 5098–96a, Specification for Artists' Acrylic Emulsion Paints; D 5724–96a, Specification for Gouache Paints: These standards are similar to D 4302 except that they are modified to apply to watercolors, acrylics, and gouache.

D 4303–93a, Test Methods for Lightfastness of Pigments Used in Artists' Paints; D 4838–88 (1993), Test Method for Determining the Relative Tinting Strength of Chromatic Paints; D 4941–89 (1994), Practice for Preparing Drawdowns of Artists' Paste Paints: These are the actual test methods by which lightfastness and tinting strength are determined.

D 5383–94, Practice for Visual Determination of the Lightfastness of Art Materials by Art Technologists; D 5398-94, Practice for Visual Evaluation of the Lightfastness of Art Materials by the User: These are very interesting and practical standard methods that both art technologists and ordinary consumers may use to test and evaluate the lightfastness of art materials.

D 5517–96, Test Method for Determining Extractability of Metals from Art Materials: I believe this test method should not be published by ASTM. It is used to determine if toxic metals can be leached out of an art material by an extractant that simulates the acid potential of gastric juice. There is now a considerable body of evidence supporting the position that there is little or no relationship between acid solubility and actual uptake by living organisms. In fact, both animal tests and a human poisoning by ingestion of acid-insoluble ceramic glaze show that acid solubility and bioavailability are unrelated. There is no reason to believe that paints would behave differently.

Even though the current D 5517 method states that it “is not meant as a replacement for in vivo tests of the absorption of a metal,” I feel certain that D 5517 is currently being misused to label toxic metal-containing art materials “nontoxic.”

D 3458–96, Specification for Copies from Office Machines for Permanent Records: This standard provides durability parameters for both the copy paper and the imaged copy.

D 5634–96, Guide for Selection of Permanent and Durable Offset and Book Papers: This guide addresses offset and book papers, both coated and uncoated, used in the preparation of permanent records expected to last several hundred years in a record repository.

D 6043–96, Guide for Selection of Permanent and Durable Artist's Paper: This guide covers primarily the life expectancy of artists' papers for both permanent and semipermanent artwork.

Recommendation: Conservators and other professional who use or purchase artists' materials should have a copy of this book on hand. And, because the ASTM standards are continually being reworked and improved, a new edition should be purchased every few years.

MononaRossolIndustrial Hygienist, Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety, 181 Thomson St., #23, New York, NY 10012-2586ELIZABETHLUNNING AND ROYPERKINSON, THE PRINT COUNCIL OF AMERICA'S PAPER SAMPLE BOOK: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE DESCRIPTION OF PAPER. Cambridge, Mass: Print Council of America, 1996. 25 pages, hardcover slipcase and three-fold sample board with 26 paper samples. Nonmembers of the Print Council $150; Print Council individual members $75; institutions of Print Council members $100 (limit of one copy each). Available from Print Council of America, c/o Marjorie Cohn, 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

This publication might just change the way we write and think about papers. It is a practical guide to the physical description of paper in which the authors present 26 samples of new and vintage paper chosen to represent the physical characteristics of sheets. Using these examples as standards, they offer a vocabulary for the description of paper that can be precisely understood or duplicated by anyone consulting The Paper Sample Book. Their goal is nothing less than consistently intelligible descriptions of papers in catalogs, exhibition labels, publications, and reports.

The idea for a paper sample book dates from 1983, when the members of the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, scattered to the print rooms of the world to survey the prints of Edgar Degas. Upon reconvening in Boston, they found they were at a loss to describe the papers seen in the prints, although vocabulary for other technical and historical matters seemed available. Luckily, Elizabeth Lunning and Roy Perkinson were intrigued by this anomaly and decided to solve the problem by creating, in an edition of seven, the first paper sample book. These prototypes for the current volume were so widely coveted that the Print Council of America underwrote the expense of producing the valuable book for a larger audience. Hand-bound in black and blue linen, letterpress printed on Rives paper, lovely to hold and use, The Print Council of America's Paper Sample Book is a deluxe tool for scholars. If Print Council and AIC members embrace the vocabulary, we will all benefit.

The Print Council of America's Paper Sample Book comes in two parts enclosed in a slipcase: a pamphlet that describes the samples and a folder that holds them. The book is akin to an instruction manual and a tool—if you can imagine a meditative and philosophical instruction manual and a really refined tool. I will discuss the tool first.

The samples are small paper rectangles, about 1 ½ × 2 ½ in., pasted down at one edge to a two-fold board covered in beige paper, and bound in deep indigo. Arranged in logical order, the samples cascade down one portion of the folded board for each attribute described: color, thickness, and texture. A descriptive term is matched to each standard of paper. One compares the sheet to be described to the samples by sight and touch, then chooses the appropriate descriptive term to describe each aspect. There are 10 choices for color, 7 for thickness, and 9 for texture.1 Applying this system, the paper you are now holding, used in the JAIC, would be described as “bright white” “medium thick” “very smooth” wove paper. Your daily newspaper is on “blued white” “thin” “smooth” wove paper. The Ugo da Carpi chiaroscuro woodcut of Diogenes that I am currently inpainting is on “cream” “medium thick” “moderately textured” laid paper, and so on. The sample board can be removed from the slipcase and conveniently carried along on a research trip.

Initially, I had two reservations about the system, both of which proved groundless. The first was that the descriptions seemed too general to encompass the variety of papers found in works of art. I thought that proper technical terms, such as “coated print stock” or “newsprint,” in two of the examples cited above, might be more informative. Upon reflection, it seems that the opposite is true. Such technical terms used alone are esoteric and often ambiguous. For example, I have been trying to define “cartridge paper” for years. The name was apparently applied to different papers from era to era, and by the mid-19th century the specific name was used simultaneously to describe two completely different sheets: one made to encase rifle shot and the other for watercolor. “Rice paper” is a common misnomer, but is “Japanese tissue” any better? (Is that paper actually a tissue, and how can one know if a sheet was made in Japan?) My current favorite example of gibberish masquerading as wit comes from an exhibition label that described a Picasso drawing as being “black chalk on Ingres.” While this is an interesting image, it doesn't really illuminate the drawing for a visitor.2 The descriptive terms given in the Sample Book have the virtue of never being wrong, never becoming jargon, and of being reproducible by another observer; in fact, they are informative. This is a valuable notion.

A first-time user might also be skeptical at having to choose among what appears to be a limited number of terms, but have faith: the vocabulary proves to be thoughtfully chosen and well disbursed along the continuum of possible choices. Using the sample book, a curator of photographs and I determined to categorize the papers found in the National Gallery of Art's collection of Alfred Stieglitz's photograveurs. Issued in several ill-documented editions, the photograveurs had resisted her efforts to catalog and date them. We took all the prints, one by one, and described the primary supports, the mounts, even the original cover sheets scrupulously adhering to the vocabulary in the Sample Book. Sometimes, we whined that no choice was perfect, but having determined to make a choice, we consistently chose the same compromise although working independently. In this we effectively re-enacted the experience of the MFA curators with their first sample books. Like their prints by Degas, our Stieglitz photograveurs organized themselves into editions by paper types.

Remarkably, the samples prove useful for art of all eras. Barbara Butts, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Saint Louis Art Museum, is using the sample book to describe sheets in her upcoming catalog of drawings for stained glass windows from the time of Dürer and Holbein. David Platzker, curator for Claes Oldenburg, used the samples to characterize papers found in that artist's prints dating from 1958 to 1996. His catalogue raisonné of the prints, written with Richard H. Axson, will be issued in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition at the Madison Art Gallery called Printed Stuff: Prints, Posters, and Ephemera. Readers of these publications will not have to wonder if any sheet they may hold in their hands is the same as the one described; they can decide for themselves by comparison to The Sample Book.

While the samples are the utilitarian portion of the book, the accompanying text offers a wise and contemplative discourse on the sample papers, which also represent hundreds of years of achievement in paper manufacture. As the authors describe the samples, dating from the 17th century to the present, they parenthetically seam the evolution of papermaking to the consequent changes in paper and art on paper. As I read the text, I found myself stopping midparagraph to say, “Right! I knew that.” I knew, but had never articulated, for instance, that the history of papermaking technology tends toward whiteness in sheets, and also toward smoothness. Returning again and again to the skill of the papermaker, and our own tactile abilities to describe the papers, the authors reveal their bias toward sensual or cognitive experience in defining a sheet of paper or a work of art. In fact, they write, “The senses are the first tools, and very useful ones, with which to approach a work of art.” Judging by the remarkable connections made between works of art in the text, the authors are not only looking and touching works of art, they are also thinking about them. Consider that Albrecht Dürer's Life of the Virgin, from 1511, is paired with Daumier's lithographs from Charivari, because both illustrate the tension between the aesthetic interest of the artist and the pecuniary needs of the publisher. I will use the samples as a tool, but I will treasure the text as a graphic example of what paper conservators can know.3

Twenty years ago I was lucky enough to have been Roy Perkinson's intern in the Paper Conservation Laboratory at the Museum of Fine Arts. The collegiality of the print department and the paper lab there has remained for me the measure of a successful scholarly enterprise. Together, these departments have published information on many technical issues of printmaking, papers and inks used by artists in their exhibition catalogs. The Paper Sample Book, coming from that collaborative tradition, demonstrates again the merit of a close working relationship between curators and conservators. Unique in its genre, and uniquely useful for caretakers of art on paper, this handsome paper guidebook will be prized by those who possess it.

I would encourage paper conservators who might want the book to hurry and buy one, as only 500 copies were made, and some are to be held in reserve for future members of the Print Council.

JudithWalshPaper Conservation Dept., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 20565

NOTES

1. Of course, each of the 26 samples displays all three aspects, whatever they were chosen to represent. The user might describe a sheet as “same color as ‘moderately thick’ but a little warmer” in his or her notes.

2. There are at least three manufacturers of a drawing paper called “Ingres”: Canson, Fabriano, and Arches. Canson-Montgolfier was the first to name a paper after the famous French artist. Although this charcoal drawing paper was not of a type used by Ingres, it was advertised as meeting his standard of high quality. The other manufacturers, presumably jealous of Canson's appropriation of the artist's reputation, followed with “Ingres” papers of their own. Although all are medium-thickness, moderately textured laid papers, Ingres sheets can by any number of colors, either pastel or saturated in color. Green, brown, pink, lavender, yellow, blue, grey, cream, and white papers have all been made under this name. They can be uniformly dyed pulp or flecked with colored fibers. Some change markedly when exposed to light. Judging by the watermark visible through the glass, in this case, Picasso used a Fabriano sheet. How much more informative a descriptive label would have been!

3. A few copies of the text alone are available for purchase for a nominal sum from the Print Council.

a: Notes , References
Entire Article

Copyright © 1998 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works