Conservation · Science · Art History

The conservation division celebrates the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art in its new biennial journal, Facture. Named for "the manner in which things are made," Facture explores themes in the materiality and history of art, addressing all aspects of the discipline from conservation treatment and history to technical art history to fundamental scientific research.

Jan van Eyck, The Annunciation, c. 1434-1436

Jan van Eyck, The Annunciation, c. 1434-1436, oil on panel transferred to canvas, National Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Details of the Virgin's robe: (left) after cleaning, with paint losses inpainted but before the missing blue glaze was compensated; (center) infrared reflectogram used to guide final recreation of the glaze (images collected with a Kodak platinum silicide camera configured to 1500–2000 nm); (right) after treatment, with the missing blue glaze recreated in reversible materials.

Conservation and scientific research undertaken at the Gallery on the objects in its collection are focused on artists' methods and materials—identifying the materials used by artists, understanding the ways in which different artists handled these materials, and discerning how to preserve the qualities the artists prized. One line of inquiry supports conservation treatments by distinguishing between the artist's original work and any alterations introduced by later restorers or by the aging process. Another area furthers art-historical studies by tracing the artist's decision-making process, as revealed in changes made by the artist during the work's creation or by choices of novel materials and techniques. A third develops innovative materials and methods for use in conservation treatment.

South Netherlandish, The Triumph of Christ ("The Mazarin Tapestry"), c. 1500

South Netherlandish, The Triumph of Christ ("The Mazarin Tapestry"), c. 1500, wool, silk, gilt-foil-wrapped silk yarn, National Gallery of Art, Widener Collection. Detail, trio of pages: false-color image obtained from the hyperspectral image cube. Spectral differences based on different secondary protein structures are reflected in the false-color image, where white areas correspond to silk fibers, purple areas correspond to wool fibers, and green areas correspond to metal threads.

facture Designi

Giorgio Vasari with drawings by Filippino Lippi and Sandro Botticelli, Page from Libro de' Disegni (recto), drawings probably 1480–1504, mounting and framework by Vasari after 1524, album page with four drawings in various media with decoration in pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black chalk, National Gallery of Art, Woodner Collection, Patrons' Permanent Fund. Detail, Filippino Lippi, Various Figure Studies, c. 1493/1495. Filippino's drawing is depicted in color and Vasari's framing in gray scale.

Andrea del Verrocchio and Orsino Benintendi, Lorenzo de' Medici, 1478/1521

Florentine, probably after a model by Andrea del Verrocchio and Orsino Benintendi, Lorenzo de' Medici, 1478/1521, painted terracotta, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection, during treatment, half-cleaned

The inaugural issue of Facture brings together the recent work of Gallery conservators, scientists, and curators centered on Renaissance painting, sculpture, textiles, and works on paper in the Gallery's collection.

Volume editors: Daphne Barbour and E. Melanie Gifford
Distributed by Yale University Press
Available September 2013, 192 pages

FACTURE: Conservation · Science · Art History, Volume 1: Renaissance Masterworks

A Page from Giorgio Vasari's Libro de' Disegni as Composite Object, Kimberly Schenck, Barbara Berrie, John K. Delaney, Paola Ricciardi, and John Witty III

A Renaissance of Color: The Conservation of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Michael Belman, Alison Luchs, and Shelley Sturman

Italian Renaissance Paintings Restored by Duveen Brothers Inc., c. 1927–1929, Elizabeth Walmsley

Jan van Eyck's Washington Annunciation: Painting Materials and Techniques, E. Melanie Gifford, Catherine A. Metzger, and John K. Delaney

Technical Study of The Triumph of Christ ("The Mazarin Tapestry"), Julia M. Burke, Lisha Deming Glinsman, John K. Delaney, Suzanne Quillen Lomax, Kathryn M. Morales, Michael Palmer, Christina Lynn Cole, and Paola Ricciardi

One of Many: A Cartapesta Relief of Jacopo Sansovino, Judy L. Ozone

In Focus

The Cleaning and Restoration of Van Eyck's Washington Annunciation, David Bull

Reconstructing the Casting Technique of Severo da Ravenna's Neptune, Dylan Smith