Finding The Culprit For Van Gogh’s Darkening Yellows

The Sunflower still-life series is possibly Vincent van Gogh’s most famous work. Unfortunately the warm yellow hues that make the paintings memorable come from pigments that don’t have a long life-expectancy. During the 19th century, chrome yellow pigments came in to fashion among painters and then quickly went out again, as artists realized that the vibrant yellow color was unstable and would lose its vibrancy when exposed to light....

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Stinky, Degrading Film And How To Stop It

Like humans, fungi have a taste for old movies. The problem is that they like to eat the film rather than watch it. Adding insult to injury, fungi produce copious amounts of stinky odors from their consumption of classic flicks. In fact, this fungi flatulence can cause headaches, nausea and irritated eyes in humans. (In particular, one airborne fungal molecule called 1-octen-3-ol.) For this reason film archive staff fear any sort of...

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Drilling Holes In To One Painting To Look For Another. Hmm…

This blog devotes a lot of digital real-estate to cool experiments on art and artifacts that are non-invasive, or at least minimally so. So I’ve got to admit that I was not particularly overwhelmed by the breathless reports last week in a myriad of media about a project to drill 14 holes into a Vasari painting in order to search for a possibly hidden da Vinci below. The articles were subsequent to a press release by National...

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Rare Aztec Document Gets A Check-Up

In 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan fell to the Spanish invaders, who burned libraries and destroyed most of the manuscripts pertaining to Aztec history, religious rituals and economy. The Codex Fejérváry-Mayer is one of just two dozen or so Aztec texts to survive the Spanish invasion. It’s also just one of just six screenfold books that were penned before Cortez started his conquest of Mexico’s indigenous people. So suffice to...

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Think You Can Identify A Van Eyck?

Many art historians have eyed Three Maries At The Tomb and agreed that it’s a Van Eyck. What’s debated is whether Jan painted the artwork or whether it was his older brother Hubert. Or more likely, whether the painting was a sibling collaboration. For example, the brothers both worked on the famous Ghent Altarpiece: An inscription on the back says it was started by Hubert and finished by Jan, six years after Hubert’s death. However,...

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Mercury In Platinum Prints Makes Things Sepia–Or Does It?

Around 1889, Gertrude Käsebier, a 37-year-old, unhappily married mother of three, decided to go to art school. A decade later, around 1900, Käsebier’s photo studio in New York City was so successful that her platinum print portraits were “the thing to have,” in turn-of-the-century socialite circles, says Tram M. Vo, an independent conservator who has been collaborating with Dusan Stulik at the Getty Conservation Institute. “At the...

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