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Tuesday, May 17 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Paintings) Carlo Crivelli’s 'St. George Slaying the Dragon' at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Technique and Restoration

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Crivelli’s "St. George Slaying the Dragon", one of six panel paintings that originally formed the Porto San Giorgio Altarpiece of 1470, underwent a comprehensive technical examination, cleaning and restoration in preparation for its inclusion in the first ever monographic exhibition dedicated to the artist in the United States. Ornament and Illusion: Carlo Crivelli of Venice, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (October 22, 2015 – January 25, 2016) explores multiple aspects of a significant Italian Renaissance artist whose work has been largely overlooked. Executed with astonishing skill in a variety of media, including egg tempera, metal leaf and ornamental relief, St. George Slaying the Dragon exemplifies the artist’s idiosyncratic manner characterized by dramatic compositions, remarkable illusionistic effects and lavish decoration. The technical study revealed fascinating aspects of Crivelli’s meticulous facture which was revealed through imaging and analytical techniques including infrared reflectography, reflectance transformation imaging, x-radiography, x-ray fluorescence analysis, cross-sectional analysis, and scanning electron microscopy. Most notable among the technical findings was the artist’s use of extensive underdrawing, the elaborate and skillful use of "pastiglia" relief elements and the confirmation that in addition to conventional gold ground techniques, silver leaf, now badly tarnished was originally used as a prominent form of ornamentation in the picture. The 2015 cleaning and restoration of the picture addressed aesthetic issues concerning the removal of an eighty year old PVA varnish and yellowed wax coatings, old restorations that no longer matched the original surfaces and reintegration of losses and abrasions. Last conserved in the mid 1930’s, portions of the picture had been left minimally restored in significant areas, an approach often taken by American paintings conservators during the mid-20th century. More problematic for the present treatment was the documented condition of the picture before the 1934–35 conservation. A comparison of archival photographs revealed that in-painting carried out in 1934-35 was not executed to the same level of finish as was undertaken prior to Isabella Gardner’s purchase of the painting in 1897. Given the elaborate and highly refined techniques Crivelli employed, the present treatment sought to carry out the restoration to high degree of finish all the while respecting the age of the picture. To that end, the reintegration of egg tempera paint losses aimed to imitate the fine and elaborate technique used by the artist. As the restoration progressed, it became evident that losses in the gold leaf surfaces, especially in the "pastiglia" reliefs greatly compromised the artist’s intended visual effects. To bring greater balance to the appearance of the image, selected areas were resurfaced using combinations of 23K gold leaf and shell gold toned to match the aged look of the original gold surfaces.

Speakers
avatar for Gianfranco Pocobene

Gianfranco Pocobene

Principal, Gianfranco Pocobene Studio
Gianfranco Pocobene is the Principal of Gianfranco Pocobene Studio specializing in the treatment of easel paintings and murals. He is also the Chief Paintings and Research Conservator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. From 2004 - 2018 he was the museum's John L. and Susan K... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Jessica Chloros

Jessica Chloros

Objects Conservator, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Jessica Chloros is the Objects Conservator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where she has worked since 2008. In 2007, she received her M.S. in Art Conservation, specializing in objects, from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She has completed... Read More →
avatar for Richard Newman

Richard Newman

Head of Scientific Research, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Richard Newman is Head of Scientific Research at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he has worked as a research scientist since 1986. He has a BA in Art History (Western Washington University), MA in Geology (Boston University) and completed a 3-year apprenticeship in conservation... Read More →


Tuesday May 17, 2016 2:00pm - 2:30pm EDT
Room 511 A/D