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Conservation Projects

Conservation Revealed: The French Sculpture Project

For the first time at the National Gallery of Art, works of art are being conserved in the galleries where they are permanently exhibited, in full view of the public rather than behind the scenes in a conservation laboratory. 

The Examination and Treatment of Edward McCartan’s Bronze Garden Sculpture, Isoult

See how analytical techniques, such as x-radiography and x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, can reveal the fabrication methods used in early 20th century bronze casting.

The Treatment of a "Façades d'immeubles (Building Façades)", 1946

Treatment of a painting by Jean Dubuffet illustrates the use of a hot vacuum table in the reduction of distortions and undulations of the canvas. This article outlines the condition issues and use of the large apparatus in treating the modern painting.  

Chemical Imaging Symposium

This symposium, captured on video, is the culmination of a five-year grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The talks focus on technological development and implementation of imaging instrumentation, in the areas of reflectance spectroscopy in the visible, near-infrared, mid-infrared, as well as x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. Key findings obtained when applying this technology to works of art and the implications for art history are discussed.

Illuminated Manuscripts

What are illuminated manuscripts? How are they made? Explore under the microscope the exquisite detail of these luminous paintings on animal skin. Learn how we treat, store and display illuminated leaves so you and generations to come can enjoy their wonder.

Chemical Characterization of Pigments in Art

What is color? Discover how color is understood by scientists and perceived by artists while exploring the instrumental methods used to identify and characterize colorants.

16th-Century Renaissance Pigments and Painting Techniques

Discover the pigments used by Giorgione and Bellini and see the structure of paintings on a microscopic level.

Effects of Light Exposure

Light is a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum to which the eye is sensitive. Its presence is essential for the most rewarding perception of almost all art. Yet exposure to light can result in cumulative and permanent damage to light-sensitive objects.

John Constable

John Constable (1776–1837) created landscapes that ranged from sketches with broad, loose strokes to highly polished and tightly rendered finished paintings.

An Entrance to the Paris Métropolitain

The treatment of outdoor works of art requires careful thought about the way an object can be safely preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Past treatments and the environment where the object will be displayed play a role in planning a successful conservation treatment. See how An Entrance to the Paris Métropolitain was carefully cleaned and restored.

Up Close: Raphael's The Prophets Hosea and Jonah

Look closely at an early 16th-century drawing by Raphael and learn how the artist constructed his masterwork.

A Closer Look at a 15th-Century Florentine Terracotta Madonna and Child

See how the treatment of a 15th-century polychrome Madonna and Child was accomplished in the object conservation laboratory.

Hinge-Free Mounting

Learn how to mount prints, drawings or photographs into a mat without applying adhesives or tapes directly to the artwork.

Art and Science: Renaissance Illuminations

Explore how imaging is used to examine a choir book commissioned by the Camaldolese monks of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence at the end of the 14th century.

Pablo Picasso, The Tragedy

Picasso (1881–1973) often left visual clues on the surfaces of his paintings to suggest a hidden image underneath, as in The Tragedy (1903). Artists frequently make changes to a painting or reuse a canvas or panel with an image already painted on it. Explore this painting further to see how it reveals its secrets.