Saturday, January 22, 2011
A work of art is like a treasure. Once it leaves the artist's studio or workshop, it will hopefully be valued enough to be "used" by an admirer or preserved in a gallery's collection. What happens during its lifetime creates a startling image of both its original time and the values that the world places upon it.
This could mean that the owner might trim off the artworks edges or cut into individual fragments. There are numerous examples of this, including the tragic history of the Pistoia Santa Trinità. Commissioned in 1457 with Francesco Pesellino and finished within Fra Filippo Lippi's workshop, this work had experienced severe fragmentation during its lifetime.
Example of the Fragmentation
Then there is an issue of additions. What if its owner's passion inspires him to commission further additions? Often additions are made to suit the taste for the time. For instance, the National gallery mentions one particular painting that changed drastically in appearance over time. Originally the painting was identified as a painting of Palma Vecchio, with a sweet innocent brown haired girl as its sitter. The painting, however, after its cleaning presented a different image. Now the “Women at the Window” presents a seductive image of a blonde hair woman without the attribution to any artist.
These are just a few examples of what happens to a work of art within its given lifetime. After the work leaves the studio, a great amount of history may change it. Even if the work luckily gets absorbed into a collection, its survival is still not guaranteed.
Caring for an object’s history and preserving it for the future comes into the territory of the conservator. A conservator must learn as much as he or she can about works of art: from how they have been valued over time, in the present day, and how to keep this value within the future.