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New Technical Research on the Tomb of Mary of Burgundy

Emily Pegues, curatorial assistant, department of sculpture and decorative arts, National Gallery of Art, and Dylan Smith, Robert H. Smith Research Conservator, department of object conservation, National Gallery of Art. Fatally injured in a hunting accident in 1482, the young Mary of Burgundy lingered on her deathbed long enough to dictate her will, specifying in it the desire to have a tomb erected suitable to her station as Duchess of Burgundy and the richest woman in late 15th-century Europe. Her tomb in Bruges drew on the skills of the best craftsmen in the Burgundian Netherlands to produce a marvel of northern Renaissance art in gilt brass, enamel, and stone. In this presentation held on February 12, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Emily Pegues and Dylan Smith share their groundbreaking discoveries on the tomb. Using detailed visual examination and scientific analysis, a recent technical study of the tomb—the first ever undertaken—provides new insights into how this elaborate multimedia monument was created. When combined with documentary evidence, these findings shed light on the wider sculptural practices in northern Renaissance Europe.