How much do (tech) details matter?
In this issue :

Piero di Cosimo. When technique matters: extraordinary effects, extraordinary losses

Dolci: sweet name, icy brush

Goya: positivo al test


When technique matters: extraordinary effects, extraordinary losses.

Piero di Cosimo

On show this summer in Florence the monographic exhibition "Piero di Cosimo eccentric painter between Renaissance and Mannerism" (Uffizi, up to 27/9), following the one recently concluded at National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Lent to Washington and now worth a visit in Florence, among others the extraordinary "Liberation of Andromeda", as according to Vasari: "Piero never made a lovelier or more highly finished picture than this one", (diagnostics by Art-Test, not yet published)
In the Florentine exhibition, paintings and drawings by Piero relate with works by artists such as Filippino Lippi, Fra Bartolomeo and Lorenzo di Credi, to highlight how the pupil di Cosimo stands out as an original painter, whose style was said to be more Flemish (or Venetian), rather than Florentine, as his paintings were more relying on color values ​​rather than on the preparatory drawing. But is this what emerges from the investigation?
A solitary painter, he was however greatly demanded by the most prominent families of Florence (including Strozzi, Capponi, Vespucci). He was an experimenter, one of the firsts, along with Leonardo, adopting the oil painting technique. The studies conducted by E. Walmsley reveal, in fact, how Piero was also eccentric in the way he was making use of his tools, with overlapping and peculiar brushstrokes and sometimes also of fingertips. It was in fact just uncovering the use of such a particular way of working that helped to solve several cases of dubious attributions.
Attempting new ways, away from the established traditional ones, however, could also be the cause of the difficult state of conservation faced by several of his works.
For example, the great altarpiece "Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine and Saints", alongside the high quality of the original painting, revealed also significant losses under the multiple layers of repainting (diagnostic analyses Art-Test, not yet published). This masterpiece was unexpectedly found, resurfacing in the antiquarian market, in a private collection. On special loan for the exhibition, you can now admire it during the challenging phases of restoration. Such a unique opportunity should also not be missed!
The top part of the altarpiece was missing, but a befitting fragment displaying two angels distributing incense and jointly carrying a crown, listed as “style of Piero di Cosimo” was identified at the National Gallery in Edinburgh. When it came to Florence to undergo the necessary conservation treatments, the infrared testing (performed by Art-Test) revealed on the altarpiece, concealed by overpainting and restoration, the feet of the angels of the top. There was no doubt left! The repainting has been removed and the two parts are now joined for the display. So the angels got their feet again, but only temporarily, since after the exhibition they will be separated by over 1700 km again!

Top, "Angels holding a crown ", before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, National Gallery of Edinburgh; bottom "Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine", before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, private collection; currently on display at the Florentine exhibition in the course of the conservation treatment
Dolci: sweet name, icy brush

Carlo Dolci a patient technique
Carlo Dolci, said Carlino, a beloved and acclaimed artist by the critics of his time, considered the greatest Florentine painter of the seventeenth century, contended by European nobility (although he almost never left the Tuscan territory), is now back in the spotlight thanks to the monographic exhibition running until November 15 at the Galleria Palatina of Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The exhibition brings together works from numerous European museums: the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, the Alte Pinakothek of Monaco Bavaria, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Burghley House in Stamford, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brest, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and the British Royal Collection, reflecting the international scope of his works.
The exhibition brings together nearly 100 paintings, of which seventy of Dolci, and the remainings by his contemporaries, to facilitate comparisons and show connections, in a sort of compendium of his descriptive style, rigorous and meticulously attentive to detail, smooth, icy but sensual, which has been called "hyperrealist" before its time. His almost obsessive rendering of details is exemplary: from the soft and almost palpable fabrics of the robes, to the splendid jewels, which, quoting the biographer Filippo Baldinucci, were "imitated in such a gorgeous (and realistic) fashion, that, as much as one touched and retouched the canvas to make sure they were painted, the eye was left in doubt."
This exhibition has been a precious opportunity to kick off a major campaign of restoration and overhaul of 33 works of the Master, also important for the study of the unique painting technique used, which involved innovative wits to reach the coveted mimesis. Moreover, radiographic analyses have allowed to add completely unexpected insights to the knowledge also of well-known paintings of Dolci’s catalogue, such as in the case of the diagnostic tests on the "Madonna with Child" of the Palatine Gallery (performed by Art-Test, not yet published), which revealed substantial changes to the composition.

Top, interior of the exhibition " Io, Carlo Dolci ", Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence; bottom "Madonna with the Child", Carlo Dolci, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence
Goya: positive test

Recently published by Etgraphiae, the relevant book "Goya through his self-portraits" by Paolo Erasto Mangiante, already author of the fundamental book "Goya and Italy" (Palombi Editore).
In his latest book the author provides a new interpretation of the many self-portraits by Goya, identifying five categories, and through them tracing the often dramatic events of the life of the Aragonese painter.
The book is also an opportunity to present two new works. The analysis on the first self-portrait of Goya as a young man and the draft work for the altarpiece of San Bernardino have been granted to Art-Test. The text reads: "These tests have proven useful not only to ensure the authenticity of these works, but also to determine with certainty Goya's signature. They also have provided very useful data on the materials used and the painting procedures by Francisco Goya in the elaboration of the paintings and on the drafting of the colors gradually applied. "
Also the introduction by Claudio Strinati reports that the author was "supported by a series of technical and scientific examination of exemplary clarity and concreteness."
We are pleased that our analyzes have proved useful. We strive to support experts with certainties. After all we share the thought of Leonardo: "a little certainty is better than a big lie."

On the cover the unpublished self-portrait of Goya, recently attributed by P.E. Mangiante, with support of scientific analyses by Art-Test


Gioacchino La Pira, View of Procida, private collection

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