Volume 14, Number 3, Sept 1992, pp.38-39
In the vicinity of Guatemala City, statuary, paintings, and silver artifacts are being stolen from churches. Armed guards have been stationed at the entrances of some churches.
In 1840, the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt-am-Main acquired a painting by Bartolomeo titled "St. Catherine of Alexandra." Recently the painting was taken to the lab to "have some blotches removed," and in so doing it was noted that many inconsistencies in the painting existed. After further examination, it was concluded that many areas were overpainted, and though the overpainting was old, it served only to change the image from Narcissus gazing at his reflection in a pond into St. Catherine martyred. The Stadel's chief art historian believes that the changes were made in the early 19th c., when the iconography of Narcissus was no longer understood and religious themes were very popular.
A group called the Visual Arts System for Archiving and Retrieval of Images (Vasari Project) in Munich offers museums and art collectors a service of photography which "reveals potentially dangerous cracks invisible to the naked eye, using a digital camera with a specially designed zoom lens.
Upon close examination of the Mona Lisa, after it was lent to another museum, Vasari Project photographs revealed cracks on the painted surface which could be of great danger to the painting's stability thus enabling the Louvre to prohibit the loan of the painting again.
The Epiphany, a Florentine altarpiece by the Master of the Fiesole, was recently acquired by the Ahmanson Foundation for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is currently undergoing restoration by the conservation department.
The altarpiece had been neglected and the Christ on the Cross was almost invisible, as years of soot and dirt obscured it. The conservation treatment has consisted of securing lifting paint, and cleaning. The original sky was revealed only after microscopic magnification revealed that pigments filling the cracks created a gray sky. These fills were removed and the sky is as originally intended: "a vision from another world."
A bilateral Austrian-Italian commission has decided that the mummified corpse that was found in the Similaun glacier belongs to Italy. The mummy will be returned by the end of 1992, and will go on permanent display at the Bolzano Archaeological Museum at the Castel Tirolo in Merano.
While at the University of Innsbruck, scientists from around the world have had a chance to study the mummified corpse. It appears as if the 25 or 30 year old, five-foot-tall man probably died of exposure in autumn. The climate would therefore have allowed for his body to dry and then freeze during the winter, thus allowing for better preservation of the body tissues.
An Allegory of Fortune, (ca.1530-45), by Dosso Dossi, was recently purchased by the J.Paul Getty Museum. George Goldner, curator, describes the painting as "a grand gallery picture, of which there are very few to be found." The painting had disappeared in the 19th century and turned up in 1988 at Christie's in New York. The owner had purchased the painting at a clearance in New England or Upstate New York, and had paid $1,000. Christie's sold it to London dealers for $4 million, and the Getty purchased it from them.
The painting was restored: a 3-year project. Andrea Rothe, paintings conservator at the Getty, repaired holes, restored paint losses, filled cracks, and put a new varnish coat on the painting.
The booming economy of the 1980s triggered an interest in frames as art objects. Today, frames are of great interest to curators, collectors, art historians, and conservators. Joyce Hill Stoner, director of the joint conservation program of the Univ. of Del. and the Winterthur Museum stated that "when I first started working in the 1960s, frames were a means to an end, now, many people are, thankfully, much more concerned with the historical and cultural context of the whole work including its frame. Highhandedly discarding frames or reframing works without" research is not acceptable in many quarters.
Frames independent from the work were first seen at the beginning of the 15th century. It was not until the 17th or 18th centuries that ornate gilt-covered wood frames were created. The 19th century saw the production of plaster molded frames attached to wood and later gilded. Today, unfortunately, most artists do not choose the frames which accompany their works--galleries make this final choice.
Since 1985 the authenticity of the marble Greek kouros has been questioned. Recently the J.Paul Getty Kouros was sent to Athens to the Nicholas P. Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art to be studied by eighty art historians, archaeologists, and scientists. A consensus is not expected though it is hoped that the study will allow for more concrete information to be settled about the sculpture's origin. Data presented through studies done at the Getty is "definite, but interpretations vary, and the study of ancient sculpture is largely uncharted territory."
John Knipe, a rare book collector and painting restorer "created his own private world, a cultured cocoon of antique furniture, fine paintings, and rare books--probably about 8,000 books stuffed onto pine shelved in his rented duplex in the mid- Wilshire district of Los Angeles." When the chaos following the verdicts of the Rodney G. King beating reached his neighborhood, the unfinished apartment building next door was set ablaze. The fire went uncontrolled and jumped to Mr. Knipe's duplex, burning and damaging about 6,000 rare books. Unfortunately Mr. Knipe had no insurance. He was able to escape the burning building with three paintings which were undergoing restoration. This same fire left a dozen or so families homeless in the neighborhood.
In 1988, a novice art dealer in Indianapolis named Peg Goldberg purchased--with the assistance of antiquities dealers in the U.S. and Europe--four devotional mosaics that had been (it turned out) illegally removed from a small, 5th century church in Cyprus. The Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus made legal claim to the mosaics, and U.S. courts determined that the mosaics must be repatriated to Cyprus. Hofstader's very lengthy investigation explores the individuals (and their associates) involved in procuring the mosaics: their motives, rationales, styles of operation, business methods, and personalities. He interviewed the principals repeatedly and in depth. The tale of this depressing affair--depressing particularly because Early Christian architectural artwork that had remained in place for over 1000 years has been stripped from its church and irretrievably damaged--is fascinating to read.
The condition of California's 21 Spanish-Colonial missions is discussed in this popular-press article. Adobe erosion and earthquakes are cited as primary problems. The missions are administered by a variety of organizations. Quality of preservation varies. Organizations involved in the California mission preservation movement are listed.
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