Volume 14, Number 1, Jan. 1992, pp.33-34
Scientific study has begun of the 4000-year-old "ice man," whose extremely well-preserved body, clothing and tools, and associated other items were recently found frozen in a glacier in the Tyrolean Alps.
For conservation, "all the items except the body were flown on to the Romano-German Central Museum in Mainz, Germany, which boasts one of the most sophisticated archaeological conservation laboratories in Europe. But European experts are entering new territory. 'No one has experience with conserving mummified bodies from glaciers,' [Konrad] Spindler explains...'we are trying to preserve the body in conditions as close to those in the glacier as possible, by cooling to minus 6°. C. Beyond that, the only measure we have taken was to treat the body with a fungicide in order to stop an alarming growth of at least two species of fungus.'"
Preservation of the body for the last 4000 years is attributed to: (1) rapid mummification of the body, from the combination of cold, sun, and dry winds, (2) quick coverage of the mummified body by snow, and (3) the fact that the man's body was in a chamberlike depression in the rock where it lay undamaged by the movement of the glacier.
In mid-September of this year, Helmut Simon and his wife, Erika, while climbing in the Alps, came across the frozen body of what has now been identified as a 4000 year old Bronze Age man. The body was preserved through the millennia by its location on the glacier. The find is extraordinary in that the body was clothed: in fur, leather and hay; was wearing shoes, and carried with it an ax, and a quiver of arrows with extra tips and putty for replacing them. The body also has tattoos on the back and on the knees.
After some boundary research, it has been determined that the find belongs to Italy, but the body will remain at the Innsbruck University morgue for further testing, and the apparel and gear will be treated at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum. Much criticism has been given the "experts" about the time it took them to realize that the find was of such importance, and how amateurs had apparently removed the body and its gear from the ice before it could be examined in situ.
Grasses used as insulation in the clothing of the ancient hunter found this September in the Alps were found to be 4,600-4,800 years old, according to separate radiocarbon dating measurements made at the University of Paris and Sweden's Uppsala University.
Naturally-pigmented light-brown and pale-green cotton is being grown experimentally in the US. Levi Strauss & Co. and Sally Fox, a Wasco, California entrepreneur who owns Natural Cotton Colors, Inc., have bred these colored cottons in hopes of eliminating the need to dye some kinds of textiles. Some naturally colored cotton grows wild in Peru, and the new breeds are based on those wild plants.
The unfortunate condition of many Egyptian monuments and their possible conservation treatment is discussed in this short article. Much of the problem of carrying out treatments lies within the bureaucracy that surrounds the care of antiquities which is monitored by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO). Apparent infighting and back-biting has caused some withdrawals of promised monies for the conservation of various antiquities. The latest proposal presented has been from a Swiss team, who recommend reconstruction of an initial group of five tombs, thus allowing visitors to see replicas of the important tombs, and limit the opening of the original tombs to academics, so far, the bureaucracy involved has not allowed for a decision to be made regarding this proposal, and time marches on.
James Beck, a leading Renaissance art scholar and a professor at Columbia University, was interviewed in front of Ilaria del Carretto, a 15th century funeral monument by Jacopo della Quercia, recently restored in the Lucca Duomo, and said, "It looks like it's been cleaned with Spic and Span and buffed with Johnson's Wax." Gianni Caponi, a Florentine restorer, had been hired by the Fine Arts Superintendency of Pisa and Lucca to do the work after a schoolboy had damaged her in 1987. The restorer claims..."All I removed from Ilaria was the grime" and the cleaning was done with ionic exchange resins and a low pressure atomizer. The interview was published in three cities, and the restorer feels that even though his name was not mentioned in the interview, the charges are insulting and slanderous. In Italy, aggravated slander carries with it a criminal charge and could put Beck in jail for 3 years.
The 16-year-old Balboa Art Conservation Center is discussed, featuring new director Wynn Lee. Pictures of Wynn Lee, Elizabeth Court, Sarah Murray, and Cecile Mear illustrate the story. The BACC annual budget is reported as $500,000, with a staff of 11: 3 administrators, 4 paintings conservators and 4 paper conservators. BACC presently has 13 member institutions, and also servers non-members.
New York restorer Daniel Goldreyer is being criticized by restorers in The Netherlands for work he did on Barnett Newman's late-1960s work, "Who's Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue III," owned by Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum. The complaints are that acrylic paints and a roller were used in the restoration, and that subtle variations of color have been destroyed. Amsterdam taxpayers footed most of the $424,000 cost of the restoration, and a committee has been set up to assess the case. Goldreyer has been asked for clarification on the techniques and materials he used.
Yearly, the condition of this famous painting and its environment are assessed. All details of its condition are recorded and its carefully monitored surroundings are cleaned and reevaluated. This article details this yearly process.
Last September, an Italian explained that he had attacked the famous Michelangelo statue on orders from a woman in a painting by Paolo Verones. He said, "It was Veronese's beautiful Nani who told me to strike the David." An so he took a hammer to the statue's toe. Chief prosecutor of Florence Piero Luigi Vigna feels that a deterrent to such acts against cultural property would be to stiffen the sentences given. Presently, the penalty ranges from 6 months to 3 years in jail.
A poem written by Linda Yamane (Rumsen Ohlone) protests museums owning and controlling Native American cultural material. For example, encasing California Indian baskets and requiring the use of gloves to protect them during handling is perceived as: "one more 'white'/ barrier / between Indian people / and their / culture."
Pinin Brambilla Barcilon, the Italian restorer working on Leonardo's "Last Supper" states that "the situation with The Last Supper is unlike that of any other wall painting in the world." She started restoring the wall painting 12 years ago and has this year reached the central figure of Christ. Her treatment consists of microscopically cleaning each fragile scale of color, and removing most previous restoration. In removing the previous restorations little color is left on the wall, yet the noted Renaissance historian Pietro Marani notes, "the figures are much more animated and vital than they were before," and "even though there is less color on the wall, there is more spatial volume. We are discovering a painting of extraordinary beauty. It is like seeing Leonardo for the first time."
As of January 1, 1991, a law goes into effect in the state of New York which amends the state's Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. This amendment requires that full disclosure be given with the sale of sculpture. The disclosure required for the sale of a sculpture in an edition, selling for more than $1500, includes the name of both the artist, the work and the producer or foundry; dimension and date of the piece; the edition size; the medium used to produce the prototype or master; and finally, who authorized the work and by what means. Lobbyists are now working on passing a similar law in California.
The J. Paul Getty Museum has owned the famous ancient Greek Kouros since 1985. Unfortunately, in 1986 it was learned that the accompanying documentation had been forged, and after careful study it was determined that the quality of the carving is unusual for the time frame to which it is supposed to belong. Much testing has been done to determine the origin of the marble and results have not been able to confirm or deny its origins. At this time, Jerry Podany, the head of the antiquities conservation at the Getty tells us, "We have no new tests on the horizon. We've exhausted just about every approach one can take." So, continuing to study it is about all that can be done for now.
A careful and detailed explanation of the nature and cleaning of this important work is presented in this article by the senior conservator of the paintings conservation department of LACMA, The paint sequence, pentimenti, and cross sections of paint are presented, with the final conclusion being that: "The state of this great work will continue to be debated (as will Rembrandt's intentions), while cleaning of the painting and reevaluation of the technical data have added opportunities for new interpretations."
This colorful and informative article presents the controversial issue of the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The author carefully traces the ceiling's art historical background, and defines the reasoning for the controversy. It is due to the "mental gunk" that the uproar over the restoration of the ceiling occurred. Since the 1700s, art historians have claimed that Michelangelo's ability as an artist excelled in the area of draftsmanship, but that his coloring abilities were his weakest point, hence the dark and poor coloring of the ceiling fresco. The restoration has given new light to this master's abilities, and has therefore credited him for the great artist he was. The author tells us, "What is remarkable about the Sistine restoration is that we find ourselves, quite unexpectedly, back at the top of the cycle with a clean grain of sand...The moment will not last forever. Some of today's tentative new notions will grow and harden, becoming tomorrow's steel-bound rules. But for this instant, beneath the great ceiling, the floor is open."