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October 2015

Vol. 157 | No. 1351


A new history of conservation and technical studies

In the June 2009 issue of this Magazine, the first of a series of articles was published that re-reviewed a selection of the most influential contributions to art history published in the twentieth century. That series was subsequently collected in a much-admired anthology.1 In this issue, we are beginning an equally ambitious project that extends much further chronologically – but, like the previous enterprise, attempts to capture the key episodes in a particular perspective on the art of the past. Here, we shall attempt to survey the history of the technical study and conservation of paintings through an examination of the principal players in this long, largely (but not exclusively) European narrative. Key individuals and groups will be identified and studied: their lives and contexts; details of their work and achievements, successes and challenges; their philosophies and principles; their influence and legacy. In compiling such a chronicle of conservators, scientists and art historians, we hope that the outlines of an essential ­discipline will become clear – an alternative historiography that addresses the material study, the preservation and the physical restoration of works of art.

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One of this year’s most fascinating exhibitions is The Red That Colored The World, seen by this reviewer at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe (closed 13th September).1 The exhibition and its accompanying book, with essays by forty international scholars,2 reveal how the brilliant red dye extracted from the parasitic cochineal insect, discovered first in Mexico and Peru and then imported to Europe by the Spaniards, spread all over the civilised world to be incorporated in paintings, textiles and decorative arts. The aim of the exhibition is to ‘explore cochineal’s epic story from multiple angles, including art, history, science and economics [. . . ] to consider the big impact of a tiny bug on the world’s comprehension and expression of red’.

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  • Titian

    Titian’s ‘Danaë’ for Philip II of Spain: a clarification

    By Charles Hope
  • Spadarino

    Spadarino’s ‘Doubting Thomas’ rediscovered

    By John Gash
  • Ribera between Rome and Naples: new documentary evidence

    By Giuseppe Porzio,Domenico Antonio D'Alessandro
  • Poussin in Lyon in 1622

    By Henriette Pommier
  • Boulogne

    Valentin de Boulogne’s ‘Abraham sacrificing Isaac’ at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

    By Hilliard T. Goldfarb
  • Rothchilds

    ‘The most perfect taste’: the Rothschild acquisitions at the Hamilton Palace sale of 1882

    By Christopher L. Maxwell
  • Theodore de Mayerne portrait

    The Art of Conservation I: Theodore de Mayerne, the King’s black paintings and seventeenth- century methods of restoring and conserving paintings

    By Ulrike Kern
  • Raphael, Notes and introduction by W.E. Suida, preface by B. Talvacchia Emigrés: The Transformation of Art Publishing in Britain, A. Nyburg

    By Jane Martineau
  • La Pala d’Altare a Bologna nel Rinascimento, opere, artisti e città, 1450–1500, C. Cavalea

    By Francis Russell
  • Bartolomeo Cincani, detto Montagna: Dipinti, M. Lucco, with contributions by M.E. Avagnina, M. Barausse and G.C.F. Villa

    By Jennifer Fletcher
  • Parmigianino’s ‘Madonna of the Long Neck’: A Grace beyond the Reach of Art, E.J. Olszewski

    By David Franklin
  • Carlo Dolci Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, F. Baldassari, translated by A. Brierley

    By Erika Langmuir
  • Roman Splendour: English Arcadia: The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead, S. Swynfen Jervis and D. Dodd

    By Tessa Murdoch
  • Dahl und Friedrich. Romantische Landschaften, B. Kuhlmann-Hodick, G. Spitzer, E. Haverkamp and B. Sørensen, eds.

    By F. Carlo Schmid
  • European Portrait Miniatures: Artists, Functions and Collections, B. Pappe, J. Schmieglitz-Otten and G. Walczak, eds.

    By Paul Caffrey
  • The Art and Politics of Asger Jorn. The Avant-Garde Won’t Give Up, K. Kurczynski

    By Helle Anita Brøns
  • The Long March of Pop: Art, Music and Design 1930–1995, T. Crow

    By Catherine Craft