Restored

It’s nice to see the completion of that Vermeer restoration I mentioned a while ago.

First full image of ‘new’ Vermeer with uncovered Cupid released by Dresden museumThe Art Newspaper
Art lovers get ready to be struck by Cupid’s arrow, as the first image of the completed restoration of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (around 1657-59) has been released today by Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, fully revealing a hidden image of Cupid. The change to the composition in one of Vermeer’s most famous paintings is so great that the German museum is dubbing it a “new” Vermeer in publicity materials.

A restored Vermeer painting reveals a hidden Cupid artwork hanging in the backgroundColossal
The new restoration—dive into the lengthy process in the video below—is just one of the mysteries that’s surrounded “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” since its creation between 1657–59. Originally attributed to Rembrandt and later to Pieter de Hooch, the artwork wasn’t properly credited until 1880. The piece is evocative of another one of Vermeer’s works, “Lady Standing at a Virginal,” though, which similarly features a painting within a painting by showing a solitary figure standing near a window with Cupid on the wall behind her.

There’s something very hypnotic and life-affirming about watching such intricate restorations. Here are a few more.

The Museum of Modern Art: Microscopically reweaving a 1907 paintingYouTube
To ready Paula Modersohn-Becker’s “Self Portrait” (1907) for MoMA’s reopening in October, conservator Diana Hartman tackles the question of how to repair holes in the painting’s canvas. She figures out that a curved needle typically used in eye surgery might allow her to avoid removing the work from its original stretcher. And her inventiveness doesn’t end there: Using an adhesive made from a sturgeon bladder, she secures linen thread to the needle to darn the pieces back together with the help of a microscope.

Tate: Restoring RothkoYouTube
Mark Rothko’s ‘Black on Maroon’ 1958 goes back on public view at Tate Modern on 13 May 2014, following 18 months of intensive work by the Conservation team and colleagues across Tate. The painting, one of the iconic Seagram murals which Rothko donated to Tate in 1970, was vandalised with graffiti ink in October 2012. It has since been the subject of detailed research and restoration by the core treatment team of Rachel Barker, Bronwyn Ormsby and Patricia Smithen.

Baumgartner Restoration: Ex Multis Ad Unum – Restoring a split painting, narratedYouTube
One of the challenges that the conservator often faces is before being able to embark upon the work of restoring the painting the old conservation attempts and materials must first be addressed. That is, before the “do” comes a lot of “undo.” Unknown materials and motives can be frustrating and difficult to address yet with experience and resources these can be overcome.

There seems to be no shortage of examples of restoration going wrong — though I don’t know why it’s Spain so often.

Worshipping at the altar of Beast JesusHyperallergic
Instead of trying to restore the restoration, the people behind the Santuario de Misericordia decided to make Giménez’s bizarre creation work in their favor — something they may have learned from the wise people of Pisa, who never tried to straighten their famous tower.

Botched Spanish sculpture restoration evokes the infamy of Beast JesusHyperallergic
The wooden statue is housed in the town’s St. Michael’s Church. Before-and-after photo comparisons show a badly damaged but tonally subtle and complex sculpture that has been updated with a cartoonish palette. The makeover has not only changed the facial expression of Saint George to a kind of dumbfounded stare, but also obliterated many of the details in his ornate armor, which now resembles that of a toy knight.

15th century Virgin Mary sculpture gets a very special makeoverHyperallergic
“I’m not a professional painter, but I’ve always enjoyed it, and these images really were in need of painting,” María Luisa Menéndez, the local tobacco shopkeeper responsible for this latest painting fiasco said in a statement to the newspaper El Comercio, adding that the local clergy had given her permission. “So I painted them the best I could, with the colors that seemed right, and the neighbors like it.”

How ‘Monkey Christ’ brought new life to a quiet Spanish townThe Guardian
Between August and December 2012, 45,824 people visited the sanctuary. The numbers may have dropped off since then, but Borja still receives 16,000 visitors a year – more than four times the number who came before Giménez picked up her brushes. Not only has the picture’s fame provided jobs for the sanctuary-museum’s two caretakers, it also helps fund places at Borja’s care home for the elderly, a haven for those who would not otherwise be able to afford to live there.

Botched Spanish statue that went viral is lovingly unrestoredThe Guardian
“It’s been a long process because we had to do preliminary tests and take samples to see how we could go about cleaning it and to determine which would be the best materials and methods,” [Carlos Martínez Álava, the head of the Navarre government’s historic heritage department] said. “Today, the statue has the same colours it had before last year’s extremely unfortunate intervention. But we know that we’ve lost part of the original paint along the way.”

Spanish statue bodge-up is a new rival to Borja’s Monkey ChristThe Guardian
What was once the smiling face of a woman next to some livestock has been replaced with a crude countenance that bears a passing resemblance to the incumbent US president, Donald Trump. Or one of the Sand People from Star Wars. Or something from a cheese-induced nightmare. Or, to be honest, pretty much anything you wish to project on to it.

Furniture restorer disfigures Murillo’s 17th-century Virgin Mary—and charges owner €1,200The Art Newspaper
The incident has sparked debate in Spain’s art conservation community, which says the country needs stricter rules on the restoration of art and heritage. “The works that undergo this type of non-professional intervention can end up irreversibly damaged,” says María Borja, one of the vice presidents of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators (ACRE), speaking to Europa Press.

Author: Terry Madeley

Works with student data and enjoys reading about art, data, education and technology.

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