CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Illuminated – Tracing Bosch and Bruegel

Exhibition: 4 May - 21 October 2012

Information from the museum, 31 January 2012

An exhibition about detective work and a rare opportunity to gain insight into how the art of the past can be explored using the latest scientific methods.

Four Flemish paintings: alike – and entirely different

It looks like a piece of detective work, but in actual fact it is an exhibition about four Flemish 16th century paintings. The paintings look exactly alike – and yet they don’t. The question is how they are connected – if indeed they are connected? The paintings belong to museums in Copenhagen, Glasgow, and Tallinn, and one is in private ownership. Now they have all been brought together in a virtual universe that takes an in-depth look at each of the paintings – layer by layer.

Technical analyses reveal secrets

The four paintings have been analysed and studied by means of x-radiography, infrared imaging, UV fluorescence, dendrochronology and pigment analyses. The objective was to study the materials and techniques of copying employed by artists who worked in the style of the popular masters Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1527-1569).

The aim of the analyses was to take us back to the 16th century and into the artists’ studios in order to uncover the paintings’ hidden secrets: Why is the same scene depicted in four paintings that differ in terms of style, size, and colour scheme? Are the paintings genuine? How were they created? By whom – and when? Where did the artists get their supplies? Who bought the materials, and how did they end up in four different parts of Europe?

Delve into the hidden layers

Surprising answers and results emerged during the studies, and the exhibition Illuminated: Tracing Bosch and Bruegel: invites visitors to look behind the scenes and explore the findings.

The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to delve all the way down into the paintings’ many hidden layers and gain insight into how the art of the past can be investigated by means of modern science.

The exhibition also offers visitors the opportunity to take a virtual journey that follows the journey made by the materials used for the paintings – and by the paintings themselves – 500 years ago: a journey that reaches from the Baltic woods through artists’ studios in Antwerp onwards to the art collections and museums that now house the paintings.

Cross-disciplinary and international co-operation

The studies were conducted by conservators, art historians, scientists, and multimedia specialists from the National Gallery of Denmark, Glasgow Museums, Glasgow University, Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn, and art historians from Antwerp and Amsterdam.

The studies were undertaken in co-operation with CATS – Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation.

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