In my last post, I introduced you to the cutting edge photography Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), a technique invented by Tom Malzbender at Hewlett Packard Labs. Here at the Museums, we have been using RTI to gain better understanding of objects in our permanent collection. We have just completed another round of RTI photography of this 5th-century Greek pelike.
Legion of Honor
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is home to a unique collection of 167 film negatives taken by photographer Arnold Genthe chronicling the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fires. The negatives were acquired by the Legion of Honor in 1943.
On the day of the earthquake Genthe, an established photographer best known for his society portraits and views of old Chinatown, took to the streets of San Francisco equipped with a handheld Kodak camera and pockets full of roll film.
The film Genthe used was composed of a gelatin silver emulsion on a thin plastic support of cellulose nitrate. Cellulose nitrate film was introduced commercially at the end of the nineteenth century and remained in use until the mid-twentieth century. Lightweight, transparent and flexible, cellulose nitrate film freed photographers from the inconveniences of its predecessors, paper and glass plate negatives.
In 1996 construction workers accidentally uncovered a mosaic while widening a road in the modern Israeli town of Lod, near Tel Aviv. A preliminary excavation immediately conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed that three feet below the modern surface there was a mosaic floor dating to about AD 300. The three most complete and impressive panels from the floor are on view at the Legion of Honor through July 24.
Today the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wish a happy birthday to renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn. The Fine Arts Museums have enjoyed a long relationship with the artist since the Legion of Honor hosted Diebenkorn’s first solo exhibition in 1948. From that point on, the Museums were ardent supporters of the artist and his work. Both the American Art Department and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts have compiled significant holdings of his work.
Conservators Jacques Neguer and Ghaleb Abu Diab of the Israel Antiquities Authority are visiting from Israel to oversee the conservation and installation of the Lod Mosaic at the Legion of Honor. The mosaic was discovered below the streets of the city of Lod in Israel and arrived to the U.S. in seven panels. This mosaic floor is the centerpiece of the exhibition Marvelous Menagerie: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, which opens this Saturday, April 23 at the Legion of Honor.
FAM acting head objects conservator Lesley Bone sat down with her two colleagues to discuss the discovery of the mosaic and the conservation treatments they conducted. It is a fascinating conversation that reveals the behind-the-scenes science that goes into an object before it is placed on view and provides a rare glimpse into the way conservators think and talk about works of art.
In 2009, senior registrar Stephen Lockwood came across a series of ledger books while examining the de Young’s offsite storage facility. These antique books contained detailed records of the weather and daily attendance at the de Young since its opening day in 1895. One entry was particularly interesting:
Arthur Szyk, King George VI, London: 1938. Original watercolor and gouache painting. 7 ½” x 5 ¼”. In original frame with fine French matting. Signed and dated. “Arthur Szyk Pinxit. [Latin: he painted it] London. 1938.”
The Academy Award-nominated film The King’s Speech sheds new light on the life of King George VI. Currently on view in Gallery 1 at the Legion of Honor is a portrait of the king that provides yet another glimpse of the royal.
King George VI was painted by Arthur Szyk in the illuminated style with an intricate, richly designed border pattern and a profusion of traditional iconography representing Great Britain. In this painting, the 43-year-old king is presented in full military uniform before an open window. Behind the window curtain of royal tartan cloth, the River Thames and the Palace of Westminster appear in exquisite miniature. In the upper right corner is a shield representing a composite of the United Kingdom’s symbols. Topped by St. Edward’s crown are: the motto of the Royal Order of the Garter “honi soit qui mal y pense” (evil be to him who evil thinks); the royal motto “Dieu et Mon Droit” (my God and my right); the lion of England and the royal unicorn of Scotland, the royal orb (crown), Scottish lions, and the Irish harp. Within the quarter-inch illuminated border are additional micro-shields with further symbols of the realm, including Scottish thistles, Irish harps and shamrocks.
In preperation for the exhibition Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave at the Legion of Honor, artist Isabelle de Borchgrave created five new works inspired by paintings in the European paintings collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Selected by de Borchgrave during a summer 2010 visit to the Legion of Honor, the paintings include Anthony van Dyck's Marie Claire de Croy, Duchess d'Havre and Child (1634), Massimo Stanzione's Woman in Neapolitan Costume (ca. 1635), Konstantin Makovsky's The Russian Bride's Attire (1889), and Jacob-Ferdinand Voet's late 17th-century Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba.
All five of de Borchgrave's life-sized interpretations are on view in the last gallery of the exhibition. After taking in Pulp Fashion on the Legion's lower level, head upstairs to find three of the four paintings. (The portrait of Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba is not on public view, as it's currently being worked on in our conservation studio.)
Marie Claire de Croy and Child, 2010
Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641), Marie Claire de Croy, Duchess d'Havre and Child, 1634.
Oil on canvas, 81 1/2 x 48 1/2 inches. 58.43
On view in Gallery 14.