JAIC 1999, Volume 38, Number 2, Article 3 (pp. 144 to 161)
THE RESTORATION OF THE EARLY ITALIAN “PRIMITIVES” DURING THE 20TH CENTURY: VALUING ART AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
ABSTRACT—This article explores the hypothesis that restoration practices are dependent on prevailing tastes by examining the differential status of various periods of Italian Renaissance painting and whether such discrepancies have affected conservation treatment. The hierarchical difference between the early Italian masters and the High Renaissance artists, as articulated most influentially by Vasari, will be associated with contrasting restoration practices. Do the radical cleanings that were carried out on many of the early Italian panels reveal a bias toward paintings by classic artists like Raphael? This article probes the answer to this question by focusing on the label the “primitives,” a complex but inevitably pejorative term used to describe early Italian painters as late as the 1970s.