News / Arts & Entertainment

Technology Helps Restore Paintings by Old Masters

Technology Helps Restore Paintings by Old Mastersi
X
February 28, 2014 3:32 AM
Conservators at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., are now restoring an El Greco painting in preparation for a series of exhibitions marking the 400th anniversary of the famous painter’s death. VOA's George Putic reports.
Technology Helps Restore Paintings by Old Masters
George Putic
In the late 16th century, the Spanish artist El Greco created a huge painting, 1 meter by 2 meters, titled Saint Martin and the Beggar. In the first half of the 20th century, the canvas was covered with protective varnish that over the course of decades caused discoloration. Conservators at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., are now restoring the painting in preparation for a series of exhibitions marking the 400th anniversary of the famous painter’s death.
 
Often changing the cotton tip on her wooden pick, the National Gallery of Art's senior conservator of paintings, Ann Hoenigswald, patiently cleans the canvas, millimeter by millimeter.
 
She said the painting by the famous Renaissance artist, best known by his nickname El Greco, needed conservation treatment because the aged varnish started turning yellow, altering the colors.
 
“The whites turn yellow, the blues turn green. It really dulls down the vibrancy of the tones the artist intended,” said Hoenigswald.
 
Before starting the conservation, the scientists closely examined the painting, looking for possible damage and alterations to the original. Imaging tools such as microscopes, infrared cameras and x-rays allowed them to penetrate the outer layer of paint.
 
This analysis clearly showed how El Greco altered certain parts of his work.
 
“Initially you can see the bridle was a little bit higher and most likely because some of the paints become more transparent as they age that’s why we’re seeing this line under here," said Hoenigswald.
 
Technology helps analyze the artwork, but the actual restoration must be done by hand. Hoenigswald said she has been working on Saint Martin and the Beggar for about a year, slowly revealing its original beauty.
 
“All of a sudden the depth of the painting, the background seems to recede even more and the foreground comes forward and, as you can see in this picture, the whites become so dramatic, and so dominant, and the contrast between this gorgeous blue and the white becomes much more forceful than it was before,” said Hoenigswald.
 
After cleaning the painting, the conservators applied another product of modern technology - synthetic varnish that mimics the natural resin but will not alter with age.
 
The canvas is now about to be packed up and sent off to Toledo, Spain, the city from which it came, to be part of an exhibition marking the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”