Art -Test moves, a Master on Fakes, Brafa report and more...!
In this issue:


Art-Test moves!

We have chosen a new location, more prestigious, we are in Palazzo Frescobaldi, more central, 5 min walk from the Old Bridge, but mostly offering an increased security level to our customers, with a guard at the entrance 24/7.

In spring we will throw a party to celebrate. Currently too many activities keep up busy around the world, at your service!

The new address is: via Santo Spirito 11-13, 50125 Firenze. The telephone number remains the same: 0039 055 2286478

Looking forward to welcoming you here!


Learn how to fight fakes with a Master

The trade of fake artworks is a crime. But what is a fake, and how can you recognize it?

Last January 14th Art-Test Florence held a lecture on“TECHNIQUES OF SCIENTIFIC DATING – Artistic and architectural heritage, artworks origin analysis and false works recognition through scientific testing. Case Studies”.

The Master in “Judicial frauds and Crimes against Archaeology and Cultural Heritage” promoted by the Center for Criminologist, sociologists and legal Studies,  Department of Cultural Heritage and Archeomafie, in collaboration with “International Observatory Archeomafie”, aims to provide adequate training on the dynamics, strategies, objectives and modus operandi of those who in, a criminal manner, are dedicated to looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural goods. At the same time it aims at informing on how to recognize and evaluate works of art by scientific means, specifically devised for the identification of fakes.

Art-Test presented to a group of students including archaeologists, historians, lawyers and tourist guides, the multiplicity of analytical aspects relevant to identify inauthentic artworks, starting from the concept of fake, through the study of several examples in which various analytical techniques have been applied. Knowledge is power, also to defeat the illicit.

A new course is starting on the 25th of March. Interested? Apply here:

Lost and found
Under three of the paintings decorating the altars designed between 1565 and 1570 by Giorgio Vasari for Santa Maria Novella, a series of mural paintings were discovered - dating from the end of '200 to the beginning of' 500. The altars were meant to beautify and modernize the Dominican church of Florence, however they only covered pre-existing frescos, belonging to the earliest phase of the church's history, as it has been discovered on the occasion of a restoration campaign.
Last February 11, the results of the studies on this sensational discovery were presented together with the book "Research in Santa Maria Novella. The fresco of Bruno, Stefano and the others ", edited by Anna Bisceglia, superintendent of the Florentine cultural heritage and published by Mandragora,.
Art-Test has been working on one of the three paintings uncovered on the walls of the church, i.e. the one attributed to Bruno di Giovanni, brother of Buffalmacco, depicting San Maurizio captain of the Theban Legion, along with the other martyrs, in a frenzied scene of deep intensity. The martyrs expressions reveal that they know that they are going to die, since they refuse to kill their Christian brethren.
Multispectral images have been acquired in the visible range, in IR reflectography and in UV fluorescence. Such results with XRF investigations, and photomicrographs, determined that the paint is for the largest part, not applied using the frescos technique, but it is a dry painting, that in IR shows an underdrawing. Moreover, on the surface, residues of adhesives have been found, intended for the application of a metallic sheet, especially on the helmets and the armours. The scene on the wall vibrated with the church lighting, with an illusionistic effect that today we can only imagine. (Or a virtual reconstruction could be produced and visualized on the website of Opera Santa Maria Novella, what do you think?)


Where do you buy masterpieces?

In the year of Hieronymus Bosch (500 years after his death) to see his works you could go to his hometown, 's-Hertogenbosch, (or, as the Dutch say, Den Bosch) in the Netherlands, otherwise in Vienna or Berlin… To buy them instead, you could go to BRAFA, the antique fair in Brussels, where available for sale were the works of one of his followers, Pieter Huys (about 1519-about 1581), and his school (two tablets of 28x38 cm each: “The temptation of St. Anthony”, “St. Christopher”), and an incision ( "Judgment day" from one of his paintings, about 1548-1570).  The fair ended on January 29th, with 132 exhibitors from around the world,  with a positive trend, growing  year after year, as the quality of the works proposed and its attractiveness to buyers. Someone already compares it to the best known TEFAF of the Dutch cousins, with which, however, competes with more "reasonable prices", in some case even openly exposed to the public. If Bosch is not your thing, you could find a "cassone" from Scheggia (1406-1486), along with remarkable “old masters” and from a large group of Flemish painters, two works of Le Corbusier, three Renoir, four Chagall, Matisse, Pissarro, up to Haring.
We were pleased to note that scientific analyses, especially imaging ones, are increasingly produced to support the painting descriptions, such as in the catalogue of Jan Muller Antiques, where X-rays and reflectography appear.
But still many works could be investigated, to confirm or refute attributions or simply to get to know better the practices of the various workshops. For example by comparing the technique of "Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio" of Van Dijk, now at Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and the version attributed to his circle proposed by Klaas Muller Antiques in BRAFA, or again from the same antiquarian, the specimen of “Hercules fighting the lion”, of which another copy exists at the New York MET! Science, anyone? 



Which came first the egg (tempera) or the antependium?

How did polyptichs appear? Was the Byzantine Icon to move to the altar, or was it the antependium? Why from preparing the wooden panels with parchment and two layers of gesso, gilding became limited to frames? What are the roads followed by icons and art objects in their passage from East to West? How was the Platonic-Byzantine concept of the image received in Europe and how was it transferred into the more Aristotelian sphere of Western medieval culture?
“Paths to Europe, From Byzantium to the Low Countries”, edited by Bernard Coulie and Paul Dujardin, Silvana Editoriale, just published, 53rd  volume of the Biblioteca d’arte series, tries to answer some the these questions and it is also the summary of a conference held in BOZAR, Brussels in January 2015.
Inside the volume, the article “Under the Gold: a Database of Underdrawings and Material Analyses on Sienese Paintings. Connections and Dissimilarities in Painting Techniques across Centuries and Countries”, presents the peculiarities of Sienese paintings between the twelve and the fourteen centuries. Changes in style but also in the techniques and materials used, emerge from the analysis of the Art-Test database on IR refletographies, Xrays and chemical analyses on 100 paintings of Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena. The passage from the archetypical, not to be changed model of the Byzantine icon to a free hand spontaneous underdrawing, from the gold background imitating goldsmith and from the 7 colours of the Palatinus codex to the oneiric pinks of the Sienese paintings is illustrated. Presenting also how Xrays can be studied to understand the function of a painting on wooden panel, the paper exemplifies how changes in style and the messages that the paintings were to convey are closely connected with the evolution of the techniques employed to physically make them.





A 4,10 m tall bozzetto!

It is not, and it was not, a common practice to make full size models for statues. But apparently Giambologna, at the time of this commission, was best known for “small” things, and he wanted to immediately silence who did not trust his abilities to work with bigger dimensions.

So he proved himself in large statuary already at the time of presenting a model, et voilat: a giant sculpture 4 meters tall was produced. But how did he do? What techniques and what materials did he use?

In 2013 Art-Test Florence, along with other research organizations and companies specialized  in diagnostic applied to cultural heritage, was involved in the campaign designed to provide the complex analyses of the model of the Rape of the Sabines, now at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, with the objective to answer such questions. The model is in terra cruda, i.e. raw clay, having indeed the same size of the marble work, you can admire the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. However the model is not identical. Do you want to know more? It is now possible to access all the results of diagnostic tests performed and the history of its restoration. They are now all published by Syllables in the book “It ratto delle Sabine e il suo restauro “. Inside it there are notes on the history of the artwork and on the restoration performed. It is not easy to synthesize the amount of information contained in the volume so we invite you to read it and find out how a simple “bozzetto” is actually a work of refined technical inventiveness. Jean de Boulogne really knew his business.



Did you guess?

653 views of our Christmas video, counting those on our YouTube channel and the ones on our Facebook page, but no one guessed all 5 “dancers”! Here is the solution, i.e. the 5 paintings, all analyzed by Art-Test, from which we took the faces. Happy new year to all of you once again!
  • Madonna della Perla, Raphael
  • Bacco, Caravaggio
  • Self-portrait, Goya
  • Madonna praying, Sassoferrato
  • The dwarf Gabriello Martinez, XVII century Florentine painter

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