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Event Details

Tue, January 31, 2017

12:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze, Italy

How do we look at objects, and what do we see when we do?  Join Professor of Conservation Michele Marincola, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU Conservation Center, on an exercise in close looking at works of art in the Acton Collection.  Using sculptures of the Virgin and Child, we will discuss issues of iconography, form, materiality and change. (Followed by lunch, reserved to NYU Students only).

Museum Meetings is a cycle of conversations in art spaces dedicated to various aspects of art and museums in Florence: collecting, display, art techniques, iconography, conservation, and the role of museums in society today. The program originates from the Acton collection and expands to other art spaces in the city.

Featured Biographies

Michele D. Marincola

Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Conservation; Conservation Consultant, Villa La Pietra

My twin research interests in the examination and conservation of polychrome wood sculpture and the history and theory of conservation are direct reflections of my professional experience, and form a basis for my teaching as well. I worked as a conservator at The Cloisters from 1990 until 2002, focusing on the conservation and preservation of sculpture. My research into the complex material histories of wooden sculpture by the German late medieval master, Tilman Riemenschneider, led to a number of articles and an exhibition catalog essay that combined technical analysis with archival and historical data to interpret former states of condition or appearance. Much of this work focused on sculpture in American collections that had not been thoroughly examined before. After my move to the Institute of Fine Arts in 2002 I became interested in larger issues of methodology and theory in conservation, and have expanded my research accordingly. For example, after recognizing that I had over-interpreted one set of technical data in an article I had published, I embarked on a research project into mistake making in art conservation, work that is still on-going. Although this subject is well developed as a research field in medicine and human-factors fields like aeronautics safety, nothing had been done in conservation, where the risk of operator error is also high. I have since published one article and given several lectures on my project findings, and plan on a book on the subject in the near future. Another rich area for research within art conservation is the history of this relatively modern field, and I have concentrated my efforts here in primary research into the examination and treatment of medieval European polychrome wood sculpture, co-authoring two substantial articles on the topic. In addition, I was editor of a new edition and English translation of a fundamental text in the field of European polychrome sculpture, Johannes Taubert’s Farbige Skulpturen (1978), published by the Getty Conservation Institute as Polychrome Sculpture in 2015. My new preface, notes and bibliography consider the place of Taubert’s significance as a historian of sculpture and a close collaborator with conservators, and added substantial new research that has been completed since the first publication of the book.

At present I have a contract with the Getty Conservation Institute for a book on the conservation treatment of medieval polychrome wood sculpture, co-authored with Metropolitan Museum conservator Lucretia Kargère, which will address a long-standing need in the field. The book traces the history of treatment of medieval painted wood sculpture, assesses the performance of these treatments over time, and explains methods in practice today; its emphasis is on the contextualization of contemporary practice within the historical continuum. There is no book in English on this subject, and indeed no book in any language that takes a similar comprehensive, trans-national viewpoint.

I am currently a member of two international research groups, After the Black Death: Painting and Sculpture in Late Medieval Norway (University of Oslo), and the Color Making working group of the National Science Foundation-supported project Making and Knowing (Columbia University), and am an active member of the International Council of Museum – Committee for Conservation working group, Sculpture, Polychromy and Architectural Decoration.

As with my colleagues at the Institute, there is a mutually supportive relationship between my research and my teaching. My graduate lecture course, Issues in Conservation: Historical and Ethical Considerations in the Development of a Discipline, closely examines key elements of conservation, including preservation, technical study, and restoration, and traces their change over time. In my conservation treatment courses, I place emphasis on an awareness of the history of the object and on articulating the rationale for treatment. Other teaching initiatives include a set of summer courses I develop with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation on technical art history that combine close examination of works of art with theoretical discourse.