Clare and Kate have published a digital interactive article illustrating Rubens’s complex creative process in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art. The article explores the Courtauld Gallery’s Conversion of Saint Paul series, which comprise a compositional drawing, an oil sketch, and a finished painting, using improved imaging techniques to highlight Rubens’s extremely fluid approach to the development of the design. Their findings suggest a much longer gestation of these ideas than the 1610–1612 date proposed, and cast light on Rubens’s broader working practice and his ceaseless striving for aesthetic perfection, combined with a pragmatic approach to the reuse and reworking of his compositions. Complex compositional changes are revealed using X-ray, infrared, transmitted, and raking light as well as microscopic examination and can be explored using enhanced image tools and navigation. Readers can compare works of art with their technical images using the “IIIF multi-mode viewer” to better understand Rubens’s artistic exploration of ideas and aid their own research.
TSR were very pleased to be able to contribute to detective work undertaken by English Heritage which allowed Alice Tate-Harte and Rachel Turnbull to re-evaluate a long-overlooked 16th century Flemish Market Scene. The condition of The Vegetable Seller had meant that it was catalogued as a copy of a 16th century work and had languished for years in a storeroom at Audley End house, Essex. Infrared examination revealed extensive underdrawing which bore striking similarities to works by Joachim Beucklaer. Read about the restoration and technical examination in the newly published book ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in Paintings Conservation, available from Archetype publications.
Alice Tate-Harte and Rachel Turnbull ‘Discovering Beuckelaer?’ in Mary Kempski, Jo Kirby, Victoria Leanse and Kristina Mandy (Eds), ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in Paintings Conservation, Archetype, London (2020)
Mary Kempski, Jo Kirby, Victoria Leanse and Kristina Mandy (Eds), ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in Paintings Conservation, Archetype, London (2020)
The Wallace Collection’s curator, Lucy Davis, has published a beautiful in-depth examination of Rubens’s iconic pendant landscapes: A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning and The Rainbow Landscape. These very personal, late works have long been recognised for their technical complexity as the artist expanded and revised the compositions multiple times. TSR were happy to be able to contribute new infrared images of The Rainbow Landscape which helped to better understand its complex development casting light on the artist’s intensions and processes.
Lucy Davis, Rubens: The Two Great Landscapes, The Wallace Collection, Philip Wilson Publishers, London (2020)
Tager Stonor Richardson were very excited to undertake infrared reflectography for English Heritage’s recent conservation treatment of the Madonna of the Pomegranate. Infrared examination revealed changes to the final composition which would not be expected in a copy and this, along with microscopic examination and x-radiography, helped to attribute the painting to Botticelli’s workshop.
Watch Rachel Turnbull, English Heritage’s Senior Collections Conservator, discuss the conservation treatment and technical investigation, with a glimpse of Colin capturing the reflectogram here.
The newly restored Madonna of the Pomegranate will be on display at Ranger’s House in Greenwich from 1st April 2019.
TSR were pleased to contribute to the understanding of how Tosini made his monumental Mannerist masterpiece, Cleopatra, for the London Old Masters Evening Sale, 4th July 2018. The reflectogram revealed a highly complex underdrawing with dense, liquid hatching – probably done in an ink – used to ‘sculpt’ the forms.
See Chloe Stead’s blog for a discussion of how Sotheby’s use technical imaging techniques to inform their cataloguing.
TSR infrared detail of the hand from ‘Cleopatra’ by Michele Tosini, Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s
TSR were very pleased to have one of their reflectograms included in the current Royal Collection exhibition, which offers new insight into the ‘world’s finest group of paintings, drawings and prints by Venice’s most famous view-painter, Canaletto’. The exhibition runs from the 19th May to the 12th November 2017 and is accompanied by an excellent scholarly catalogue by Lucy Whitaker and Rosie Razall. The catalogue also includes infrared reflectograms taken by TSR that help shed light on the artist’s working methods and reveal the otherwise hidden techniques of his drawings.
TSR were excited to undertake infrared reflectography on a group of Russian paintings for the 6th June 2017 sale of Russian Pictures at Sotheby’s.
Ivan Aivazovsky ‘Ship off the Crimean Coast’, Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s
TSR Infrared Reflectogram of Ivan Aivazovsky ‘Ship off the Crimean Coast’, Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s
This group of Nineteenth Century pictures proved particularly fruitful in infrared showing distinctive underdrawing techniques as well as some surprising pentimenti; some of which are discussed in Charlotte Larkin’s blog: The Infrared Technology Revealing the Hidden Secrets of Paintings.
TSR were very excited to undertake infrared examination of the Holburne Museum’s ‘Wedding Dance in the Open Air’. In recent times, much study has been undertaken on paintings based on the compositions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder to try to distinguish his work from that of his sons, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder, their studios and later pastiches based on these incredibly popular motifs. The highly characteristic underdrawing revealed in the infrared reflectogram confirmed the Museum’s attribution to Pieter Brueghel the Younger. This newly discovered masterpiece adds to the Holburne Museum’s outstanding collection of Bruegelian art, which includes ‘Robbing the Bird’s Nest’ and ‘Visit to a Farmhouse’, making it the primary collection of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s work in the UK.
A book to accompany the exhibition Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty, which includes reflectograms by TSR, is written by Dr. Amy Orrock and published by Philip Wilson, and is now available to purchase.
Building on the huge body of research undertaken for the Making Art in Tudor Britain project, the NPG mounted a ground-breaking exhibition which used technical analysis to explore the representation of the five kings and queens of the Tudor dynasty. The Real Tudors re-examined Royal Tudor portraiture attempting to see these portraits in a new light, as they would have been viewed in their own time, by using the latest tools of scientific investigation to better understand the development of these iconic images. For example, the two portraits of the young Edward VI are both echo Holbein’s Whitehall prototype of Henry VIII (Edward’s father) and depict the boy standing with his feet wide apart. Infrared reflectography of the 1547 portrait of the boy king clearly shows that the feet were initially set even further apart before the artist realised that this would appear a little to exaggerated for a nine year old boy.
Underdrawing on Rubens’ Cain Slaying Abel – A Case Study Highlighting the Different Penetration of Infrared Cameras
‘It’s widely understood that if we want to find underdrawings the infrared part of the spectrum is the place to go. But not all infrared detecting devices will reveal the same things. To help demystify the difference between infrared photography and infrared reflectography, Kate Stonor and Clare Richardson of Tager Stonor Richardson describe the discovery of some fascinating underdrawings in a Rubens painting.’ The Picture Restorer, Issue 43, Autumn 2013, pp17-19. http://www.thepicturerestorer.co.uk/
The article discusses some of the recent developments in the infrared examination of works of art and compares the relative penetration of digital photography and reflectography with the OSIRIS camera, used by Tager Stonor Richardson. The difference in operation wavelength between these two techniques, photography and reflectography, was clearly illustrated by a recent technical examination of the Courtauld Gallery’s Cain Slaying Abel (1608-09). Though a relatively early work, Rubens’ virtuoso handling of the paint led us to assume that no traditional underdrawing had been used. This was supported by the first infrared image captured using an adapted digital camera. However, something very unexpected was revealed by the infrared image captured using the OSIRIS system: there was a distinct, carbon-based underdrawing beneath the trees at the left. The foliage in this area uses azurite pigment mixed with lead tin yellow, some lead white and earths to create the green tones. Azurite and malachite pigments are relatively absorbing of infrared and therefore much more difficult to penetrate. In order to ‘see through’ these paint layers it was necessary to go further into the infrared region, beyond 1µm. This has some significant implications for the authorship of this part of the composition. The article describes the documentary evidence for Rubens’ use of studio assistants and specialists, including high status artists such as Frans Synders, and hypothesises that the underdrawing in the foliage might indicate the very early use of a landscape specialist – something that would have been missed if the painting had only been examined with infrared photography!