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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Irene Diaz has a modern pop take on the jazz torch-song tradition. She sat down with Larry London on this edition of "Border Crossings" to perform and talk about her music.