Integration of technical analysis and historical-stylistic analysis
Act of knowledge, of reintegration before interpretation even, the technical-artistic investigation allows us to dive into the structure of the work, beyond the immediate appearance, to establish a direct relationship with the fascinating event of its genesis, to fill the time that separates it from our consciousness. Silvia Bordini 1991
Interpretation of documents and their integration with the historical-stylistic analysis
By technical analysis of a pictorial work we mean the collection and interpretation of the documents obtained, thanks to the scientific investigations available today, from the examination of the pictorial material, of the support and from the study of the creative path. When it comes to material documentation, on the other hand, we also take into account the contribution provided by an in-depth interpretation of ancient sources on artistic techniques combined with a careful study of unfinished works.
The study of the pictorial material and the support, in addition to providing precise indications on the chemical components of the substances used by the artist, takes into account the behavior of the materials over time: the physical and chemical transformations that they undergo. This field of investigation is therefore not limited to the determination of the substances used, but extends to the analysis of the surface as a whole to try to establish how much of the current appearance is retraceable to the intervention of time (or that of some restorer) and how much instead, to that of the author.
Andrea del Sarto – Madonna of the Harpies – detail
Andrea del Sarto – Madonna of the Harpies – detail in infrared
The study of the path that the painter has followed to achieve a certain result requires not only the verification of the executive techniques, that is the pictorial procedures adopted such as underlying drawings, monochrome sketches, “a corpo” impastos or glazes but will also detect the possible use of technical discoveries such as pouncing, squaring or the darkroom, therefore it will include an exhaustive evaluation of the ways and phases that govern the realization of the work.
A correct interpretation of the information obtained from the scientific investigation of the pictorial material must also include the contributions provided by historical-stylistic analyzes in order to avoid that no cognitive element can be neglected.
The complex set of knowledge of the works of a particular artist represents the gradual conquest of a large collective work, built over time, which historians and scientists always enrich with new elements .
We know how delicate and controversial this useful alliance between complementary fields of study is and, as proof of this, we will use the acute observations of Stephen Rees Jones : “It is perhaps accepted that physics and chemistry guarantee precision and that their margin of error is less than that of aesthetics, of art history and of the painter’s point of view. But the criticism arises from aesthetic criteria and it is unthinkable to silence it with technical reasoning. Of course there are no doubts that science can make a contribution to conservation problems provided that research is conducted freely, without pre-established theses”. Paul Coremans, referring to the contributions of the systematic use of chemical analyzes and physical methods, indicatively states that “the latter should, incidentally, be examined in relation to each other and in the light of historical, aesthetic, stylistic and technical data derived from the examination of the painting by the responsible officials, art historians, restorers” .
Andrea del Sarto -Madonna of the Harpies – Infrared Detail
By this we mean that scientific methods certainly improve and allow a perfect diagnosis of the pictorial surface even if, as Friedlander states “when it comes to the artistic effect, there is the danger that scholars, who are so assiduously concerned with that which is invisible to the naked eye, lose the faculty to see the visible. Observers without artistic sense acquire the right to speak in the things of art; to study the mechanism, they take apart the clock: and the clock no longer works” .
We therefore consider it essential that the technical analysis is integrated with the historical-stylistic analysis to obtain a complete vision, a study that takes into consideration all aspects of the work, placing them on the same level in an overall evaluation.
Surely at the beginning of each research there will be more people, each specialized in their own sector, to provide data and start interpreting it, but this phase must be considered only as a preliminary and never conclusive phase of a work that will reach its purpose only at a later time of global revaluation.
While it is true that the documents obtained through the various scientific methodologies acquire value when one knows how to interpret and not just collect them, it is also true that most recent scientific studies do not sufficiently take into account the external appearance of paintings and historical documentation, elements that are instead used by the art historian. Scientific analysis is simply a tool available to scholars and not a substitutional scientific means.
Manfredi Faldi, La documentazione materiale come supporto e verifica dell’analisi storico-stilistica nelle opere pittoriche, Florence 2003
 Cfr. quanto afferma a proposito Gloria Vallese, Conoscere la pittura. Guida al laboratorio dello specialista, in “Editoriale l’Espresso”, 1980, p.18/9
 Cfr. S. Rees Jones, La scienza e l’arte di pulire i dipinti, in “The Burlington Magazine”,CIV, 1962, pp. 60-62, ma si cita da A. Conti, cit., 1988, p. 151
 P. Coremans, The Care Paintings, London 1951, p. 116.
 M. Y. Friedlander, Il conoscitore d’arte, Torino, Einaudi 1955, p. 116
Artenet was born in April 2000 to share experiences and knowledge in the field of Artistic Techniques, of Restoration and Diagnostics applicable to the paintings sector; It has devised and promoted an innovative didactic methodology that integrates studies and research from the three different disciplines.
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