CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Polychrome sculpture: tool marks and construction techniques symposium

Symposium: 24 October - 25 October 2010

Information from the organizers, 15 June 2010

ICOM-CC Sculpture, Polychromy, and Architectural Decoration Working Group and the Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) will host a symposium on Polychrome sculpture: tool marks and construction techniques. A number of guest scholars and conservators will be invited to discuss current issues relating to the technical study of polychrome sculptures. It is hoped that the ensuing discussion among experts from various fields will lead to further attention and research in this area.

The symposium will have as a focal point the study of tool marks on sculptures relating to the construction process. Work benches were often constructed as temporary aids to help the artisan during the carving process. Traces of clamps used to hold the sculpture in position during carving are often found on both the top and bottom of wooden sculptures. Traces of these clamps and those of tools used to carve the sculpture can be often hidden by subsequent decorative layers or misinterpreted. These marks, however, can give clues to the construction process and have, in the past, lead to the identification of a workshop or even master carver himself. Focus on the identification and classification of these tool marks, through a meticulous study and documentation, may provide more insight into the carving process of sculptures leading to tentative attributions to certain studios or workshops.

Furthermore, the symposium hopes to highlight wider issues in the material-technical study of polychrome sculptures through the discussion of a number of case studies. It is hoped that this may contribute to a consensus in terminology that will cross borders between the disciplines of art history, conservation and science.

The symposium will commence in the afternoon of Sunday 24th October with a number of Keynote lectures and a welcome dinner, and will continue with presentations and discussion sessions on Monday 25th October. The proceedings from the symposium will be published in an electronic format on the Sculpture, Polychromy, and Architectural Decoration Working Group home page of the ICOM-CC website.


Contributions for papers and posters relating to the topic are welcome. Submissions should consist of an abstract (c.300 words) to be sent by 16th July 2010 to Kate Seymour (email:

Three keynote presentations of 45 minutes will be given on Sunday 24th October, followed by a discussion session. Presentations on the Monday will be shorter and will be interspaced with further discussion sessions.
Accepted posters will be viewed during breaks and authors will be given 5 minutes to present their project to the main hall.

Updates to the programme will be posted on the Sculpture, Polychromy and Architectural Decoration Working Group home page on the ICOM-CC website.

Confirmed Speakers

Arnold Truyen, Head of Sculpture Conservation, Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg, Maastricht:

Traces on the sculptures of Jan van Steffenswert of work bench clamps
Construction techniques of nineteenth century sculptures: observations and discussions

Emmanuelle Mercier, Sculpture Conservator, KIK-IRPA, Brussels:
Observations of wooden supports and their use to augment questions of attribution: Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Mosan sculptures as a case study

Agnès Le Gac, Assistant Professor and Sculpture Conservator, Universidade Nova de Lisboa:
Wooden sculptures by the lay bother Cypriano da Cruz (c.1645/1650-1716): a study of the carving tool marks to determine attribution.

Corinne Van Hauwermeiren, Sculpture Conservator, Museum of Liege:
The technical study of Romanesque and Gothic Sedes Sapientae from the Pyrénées-Orientales (France). A methodological approach.

Peter Stiberc, Sculpture Conservator, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence:
Wood crucifixes in late 15th century Florence: innovations in the construction techniques

Michael Rief, Conservator, Suermondt-Ludwig Museum Aachen:
Going forensic. Art historical research of Northern late Gothic and Renaissance wooden sculptures based on the in-depth analysis of traces of the carving process and materials

Regina Urbanek, Lecturer and Sculpture Conservator, CICS Cologne:

Cologne Wooden Reliquary Busts between 1270 to 1360: technical developments in carving and construction

Marc Peez, Sculpture Conservator, LVR Amt for Denkmälpflege Brauweiler in Rhineland, Title to be decided


The symposium is organized by the ICOM-CC Sculpture, Polychromy, and Architectural Decoration Working Group Coordinator, Kate Seymour and the Head of the SRAL Polychrome Sculpture department, Arnold Truyen. The Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) is one of the main conservation studio’s in the Netherlands and one of the only studios with a department dedicated to the conservation of polychrome sculptures. SRAL works for public collections within the province of Limburg as well as on a national and international level and closely collaborates with the newly established University of Amsterdam (UvA) five year programme in Conservation-Restoration of Cultural Heritage.