This handsomely illustrated volume traces the intersections of art history and paintings restoration in nineteenth-century Europe.
Repairing works of art and writing about them—the practices that became art conservation and art history—share a common ancestry. By the nineteenth century the two fields had become inseparably linked. While the art historical scholarship of this period has been widely studied, its restoration practices have received less scrutiny—until now.
This book charts the intersections between art history and conservation in the treatment of Italian Renaissance paintings in nineteenth-century Europe. Initial chapters discuss the restoration of works by Giotto and Titian, framed by the contemporary scholarship of art historians such as Jacob Burckhardt, G. B. Cavalcaselle, and Joseph Crowe that was redefining the earlier age. Subsequent chapters recount how paintings conservation was integrated into museum settings. The narrative uses period texts, unpublished archival materials, and historical photographs in probing how paintings looked at a time when scholars were writing the foundational texts of art history, and how contemporary restorers were negotiating the appearances of these works. The book proposes a model for a new conservation history, object focused yet enriched by consideration of a wider cultural horizon.
About the Author
Matthew Hayes is a paintings conservator in New York, where he directs the Pietro Edwards Society for Art Conservation.
“An enjoyable book, full of new information and pertinent critical judgments. The central role of restoration in the history of museums has never been more visible.”
—Neville Rowley, curator at the Gemäldegalerie and Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
“Matthew Hayes’s radical new study, written by a professional conservator, affords fascinating fresh insights into the complexity of conservation campaigns on Renaissance paintings in the nineteenth century, examining how successive interventions record and embody vital, but all too often neglected, knowledge. Re-situating the work of significant restorers within their historical, intellectual and cultural contexts, he elucidates their distinctive contributions to the interpretation of the art of the past within a network of diverse authorities, including owners and custodians, art historians, dealers, and museum professionals. Bringing to bear new conservation data as well as archival discoveries, Hayes argues that past restorations were never value-neutral but evidence instead their own complex art historical contexts. This rigorous yet highly readable study raises many questions relevant for contemporary practice and will be an indispensable, thought-provoking resource for art historians, conservators, and non-specialists alike.”
—Susanna Avery-Quash, Senior Research Curator (History of Collecting), National Gallery, London