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September 08, 2023

Artist Workshops and Studios Uncovered in Conservation and Science Journal “Facture”

Cover of Facture, volume 6

Cover of Facture volume 6

Washington, DC—Volume six of the National Gallery of Art’s biennial journal Facture explores the themes of workshops and studios. Six essays offer expertise from National Gallery conservators, scientists, and curators, as well as outside scholars studying the museum’s collection. Two essays examine serialization in the workshop, focusing on Andrea della Robbia’s Adoration of the Child and the practice of early 20th-century bronze casting in France, while a third examines the restoration histories of five French marbles from the 17th and 18th centuries. The National Gallery’s 2019 acquisition Coriolanus Taking Leave of His Family by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson provides an opportunity to study Girodet’s painting techniques in a fourth essay. The final two essays focus on the illustration of the Ignis volume of Joris Hoefnagel’s Four Elements and an early draft of Freydal ordered by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.

“This volume was written entirely during the National Gallery’s closure during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Daphne Barbour, senior object conservator and Facture editor. “It is a true testament to our authors, who overcame enormous challenges to present the latest research on works in our collection that speak to the operation of workshops and studios in different cultural contexts.”

Essay Highlights
Creating and Re-Creating a Della Robbia Adoration of the Child

Authors: Rachel E. Boyd, senior curator, Renaissance sculpture, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Robert Price, associate conservator of decorative arts and sculpture, The J. Paul Getty Museum

The first essay focuses on the National Gallery’s version of Andrea della Robbia’s Adoration of the Child (after 1477), known as the Ruskin Adoration because it once belonged to the art critic John Ruskin. As one of dozens of closely related works made by the Della Robbia workshop in the later 15th and early 16th centuries, the Ruskin Adoration questions the preciousness of a work of art and the idea that art is handmade, expensive, and difficult to come by. The authors closely examine the construction of the Adoration, offering new insights into the Della Robbia family’s working practices in the late 15th-century art market.

The Hands behind the Hero: Renaissance Workshop Practice and Washington’s Freydal Sketches
Authors: Kimberly Schenck, head of paper conservation, National Gallery of Art; Brooks Rich, associate curator, old master prints, National Gallery of Art; and Kathryn Morales, conservation scientist, National Gallery of Art

This essay presents results from technical study of an early draft of Freydal, ordered by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I sometime before 1512. The largest tournament book of the late Middle Ages, the volume depicts jousting knights mounted on horseback and adorned in fine fabrics, men engaged in combat, and extravagant courtly masquerades. Titled after its protagonist, one of Maximilian’s alter egos, this pseudoautobiographical book was intended to appear in a printed edition that would be disseminated to the emperor’s noble subjects. While the project was never completed, the National Gallery’s draft preserves multiple production techniques that suggest contributions by several distinct individuals or workshops, helping us understand the fabrication of large projects like Freydal.

The Materiality of Joris Hoefnagel’s Insect Artifice
Author: Nancy K. Turner, manuscript conservator, paper conservation, The J. Paul Getty Museum

Writing on the Animalia Rationalia et Insecta (Ignis) volume from Joris Hoefnagel’s Four Elements, Nancy Turner explores the permeable boundaries between nature and art in Hoefnagel’s work. A skilled draftsman and an occasional publisher of his designs in engraved prints, Hoefnagel had a knowledge of image transfer methods that are carefully described in the essay using primary examination under magnification in conjunction with published accounts.

Dans les loges: Anne-Louis Girodet’s Coriolanus Taking Leave of His Family and the Grand Prix Contest
Author: Gerrit Albertson, associate conservator of painting, Conservation Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Coriolanus Taking Leave of His Family
(1786) was created as a submission to the highly prestigious and secretive Prix de Rome competition. Recently rediscovered, the work is unlined and intact on its original stretcher, presenting a unique opportunity to study Girodet’s painting techniques in the context of the strict competition regulations described in Gerrit Albertson’s essay.

Restoring Sculpture in Paris After and Before the French Revolution
Authors: C. D. Dickerson III, senior curator of European and American art, National Gallery of Art, and Robert Price, associate conservator of decorative arts and sculpture, The J. Paul Getty Museum

The National Gallery’s East Sculpture Hall is home to one of the most important groups of French marble sculpture in the United States. Through a combination of conservation treatment, technical analysis, and art historical research, this essay shines a light on the evolution of the profession of sculpture restorers in Paris after the French Revolution. The authors consider the restoration histories of five French marbles from the 17th and 18th centuries.

When the Workshop Is Fluid: Observations on Parisian Bronze Casting in the Early Twentieth Century

Authors: Lisha Deming Glinsman, retired conservation scientist, National Gallery of Art; Daphne Barbour, senior object conservator, National Gallery of Art; and Shelley Sturman, retired head of object conservation, National Gallery of Art

Casting a sculpture into bronze often occurs in a foundry, away from the artist’s studio and at the discretion of specialized technicians or founders. Building on previous research devoted to bronze casting in early 20th-century France, the authors use technical examination and alloy analysis coupled with casting records to advance the understanding of bronze sculptures and their often fraught histories.

About Facture

Facture presents the latest research on works in the National Gallery’s collection. Named for “the manner in which things are made,” it seeks to foster dialogue among art historians, scientists, and conservators in the international museum community.

The inaugural issue of Facture (2013) focused on Renaissance masterworks, including painting, drawing, sculpture, and tapestry. The second volume (2015) explored “art in context,” focusing on works from the Renaissance as well as from the 20th century: Giotto’s Madonna and Child, Riccio’s Entombment, paintings by Mark Rothko, sculptures by Auguste Rodin, and watercolors by John Marin. Dedicated to Edgar Degas in the centennial year of his death, the third volume (2017) focused on the tremendous wealth of works by Degas in the National Gallery’s collection. The first to highlight the work of a single artist, it presented insights into Degas’s working methods in painting, sculpture in wax and bronze, and works on paper, as well as a sonnet he wrote to his “little dancer.” The fourth issue of Facture (2019) examined the complex themes of series, multiples, and replicas. Highlighting works in various media, this volume employed meticulous technical and analytical study to examine the reasons for replication, whether contemporaneously by an artist’s own hand or workshop, subsequently as a posthumous creation, or recurrently as a preferred practice. Volume five (2021) introduced new and essential voices to the creation and preservation of modern and contemporary art, examining the techniques and materials of Edward Steichen, Mark Rothko, Jules Olitski, and Jasper Johns, among others.

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