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News Student Blog: Rijksmuseum

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​Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation Class of 2020 Fellow Tracy Liu examining Portrait of a Man from Haarlem by Dutch Early Renaissance artist Jan van Scorel.

Hello from Amsterdam! I'm spending my third year interning in the Paintings Conservation studios of the Rijksmuseum. After a two-month shutdown, I have recently returned to working full-time with COVID-19 distancing measures in place.  

While most internships will involve treating multiple objects, my internship here focuses on just one – a 16th-century panel painting title Portrait of a Man from Haarlem by Dutch Early Renaissance artist Jan van Scorel. This particular painting will be displayed in an upcoming special exhibition focusing on Early Renaissance portraiture. Treating only one object for an entire year provides the chance to dive deeply into technical art history research and analysis, which the Rijksmuseum is extremely well poised to do given its access to cutting-edge analytical instrumentation and scientific expertise from collaborating universities and industrial partners.  

​Left: Jan van Scorel, Portrait of a Man from Haarlem, 1529. Oil on panel, h 48.5cm × w 34.5cm. Rijksmuseum Object number: SK-A-3853. Right: Verso of the Evolon® CR tissue during treatment.

My internship this year also coincides with the year dedicated to in-depth technical analysis of Rembrandt's masterpiece The Nightwatch (Operation Nightwatch), which has provided the added benefit of getting to be a fly on the wall in meetings where international scientific experts have dissected and scrutinized the results obtained from analytical techniques such as macro X-ray fluorescence and powder diffraction (MA-XRF and MA-XRPD, respectively), visible/near-infrared and short-wave infrared reflectography (VNIR and SWIR, respectively), Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), and more. This internship has been a first exposure to the majority of these techniques. Partaking in these weekly discussions has been especially fruitful as many of these techniques were concurrently used on my panel, giving me first-hand experience in working with my supervisors – Anna Krekeler and Gwen Tauber (WUDPAC alumna, Class of 1984) – on learning how to interpret data from these modes of analysis. 

In the months spent analyzing my painting (including its presumed original frame), we have come to better understand Jan van Scorel's painting practice and identified several major anomalies in both the panel and frame, providing a seemingly endless source of new discoveries. Though many questions remain unanswered, I have recently begun the process of cleaning the painting, which involved using a specialty tissue custom designed for cultural heritage conservation, Evolon® CR, for bulk varnish removal instead of the traditional method of using solvent wetted cotton swabs. This provided yet another opportunity to learn an entirely new technique, this time in the realm of treatment techniques. The advantage of using Evolon® CR to clean a painting is that it exposes the painting to a significantly reduced amount of solvent compared to traditional swab cleaning, while providing an excellent visual document of all retouching and varnished locations. 

In the coming months, after cleaning, I will be addressing other aesthetic treatment steps, such as adjusting fills, revarnishing, and inpainting.  After the two-month hiatus, I am very excited and happy to be back in the studio for the best part of the internship – really getting to interact with the object!

— Tracy Liu, WUDPAC Class of 2020

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Tracy Liu shares her experience in the conservation studios of the Rijksmuseum, including her research and treatment of a 16th-century Dutch panel painting.

In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Tracy Liu shares her experience in the conservation studios of the Rijksmuseum, including her research and treatment of a 16th-century Dutch panel painting.

6/11/2020
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu