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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."