Three partners – The National Gallery of Denmark, The National Museum of Denmark, and the School of Conservation at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts – are now setting up an all-new centre specialising in technological studies art works. Among other things, the centre will help resolve doubts regarding the authenticity of works within the visual arts.
Art technological studies comprise research done by conservators, conservation scientists, and art historians on how works of art are created focussing on painting techniques and materials. A recent example of an interdisciplinary research project dates back to 2006, when the National Gallery of Denmark in collaboration with the Rembrandt Research Project was able re-establish Rembrandt as the author of two paintings from the Gallery collections. The analytical methods required to complement art historical research are now gathered and organised in the new Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation.
The funding comes from the VILLUM FOUNDATION and the VELUX FOUNDATION. They have donated DKK 20 / € 2,6 million towards setting up the new centre, which will open on 1 July 2011.
International knowledge centre
The Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation (CATS) operates across the usual boundaries of professional disciplines, offering a rare fusion between the realms of natural sciences and the humanities. The partnership between the National Gallery of Denmark, the National Museum of Denmark, and the School of Conservation at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, as well as target oriented cooperation with other institutions and experts, lays down the foundations for the centre becoming a leading international knowledge repository.
Here, new and sophisticated scientific methods for research on art and culture can optimise the way art is treated and preserved for future generations. CATS will also provide analytical consultancy services to other institutions, and the centre will work with a range of EU-funded projects that cut across national boundaries.
Art history viewed through the lenses of technique and technology will constitute a cornerstone in the centre’s work on supporting conservators and art/culture historians in their research and presentations regarding the genesis of works of art, painting techniques, use of materials, and issues concerning the authenticity of a given work. In addition to this, the centre’s work will undoubtedly bring about new knowledge about (art) historical developments. First and foremost, however, CATS will be able to improve mapping of the greatly varied and frequently complicated processes of ageing that take place within art works, and the centre also strives to develop new and more accurate ways of diagnosing, treating, and preserving our common cultural heritage.
Danish Minister for Culture, Per Stig Møller, says:
“With their generous donation, the Villum Foundation and the Velux Foundation strengthen the research activities at the National Gallery of Denmark. I am firmly convinced that it is a good thing that private foundations help develop Danish cultural life through specific, concrete projects. The collaboration on the CATS project reinforces research at the Gallery and its efforts to preserve its rich art heritage to the benefit of all: For the Gallery, for culture in general, and for audiences.”
Detective work: Bosch, Bruegel, workshop, or copy?
One of the first initiatives undertaken by CATS will be to take part in an international research project together with the Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn, the Glasgow Museum, and the University of Glasgow. Under the heading "Four Paintings Magnified – Tracing Bosch and Bruegel” the project will examine four paintings on wood from the 16th century, all of them showing the same Biblical scene of Christ driving the traders from the temple. The paintings, one of which belongs to the National Gallery of Denmark, point to a legacy from artists such as Bosch (ca. 1450-1516) and Bruegel (1525-69). This gives rise to a wealth of detective work ahead; through technologically aided analyses of painting techniques and materials, the international research team will seek to pinpoint who the artist or workshop behind each work could be. Their analyses will among other things be based on X-ray and infrared imaging as well as advanced scientific research techniques of the paint layers as well as on the analyses of the age and origin of the wood (known as dendrochronology).