3rd International seminar on The scientific study and restoration of 17th-19th-centuries Dutch and Flemish painting

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3rd International seminar on The scientific study and restoration of 17th-19th-centuries Dutch and Flemish painting
Vrubel Museum in Omsk.jpeg
Countries Russia
The Netherlands
Sites Omsk
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Status Completed
Project duration 8 June 2015  till 12 June 2015
Contact person Lia Gorter (Foundation for Cultural Inventory, SCI)
Type of Project Care & Management
Discipline Art history
Activity Training
Category Arts and Crafts
Dutch paintings, Flemish paintings, Russia, Museums, Conservation, Restoration, Seminar

Outside the Netherlands and Belgium, the richest collections of Dutch and Flemish paintings can be found in Russian museums. The attention for these collections led to a unique collaboration of ten museums in Siberia (Russia) and three Dutch institutions. After two successful previous seminars in 2013 and 2014, the cooperation was continued in 2015 for the 3rd scientific and practical seminar on “The preservation of cultural heritage. The scientific study and restoration of 17th-19th-centuries Dutch and Flemish painting”.

In 2013 and 2014 The M.A. Vrubel Museum in Omsk hosted a five-day international and practical Master class, entitled “The Preservation of Mutual Cultural Heritage. Scientific Study and Conservation of Works by Dutch and Flemish Painters”. These Master classes were given jointly by the three Dutch institutions: the Foundation for Cultural Inventory (SCI), the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and the Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL). The seminars were designed for art historians, conservator-restorers, curators, and museum staff who deal with scientific cataloguing of works of Dutch and Flemish paintings, as well as issues of storage, conservation and restoration. The seminars were attended by about 50 participants from museums in Russia.

Participants at the 3rd International seminar in Omsk

The participants emphasised that works originating from the Low Countries, which are represented in the collections of regional museums, are sometimes poorly understood. A broad field of subjects was covered in the Master classes, like problems of attribution and research, focus on the historical context of objects, topics on printed matter, drawings and graphics, and arts and crafts by Dutch and Flemish masters of 17th-19th centuries. This, combined with a focus on technical and art historical research, attracted the interest of museum professionals all over the Wolga region. Including the Master classes in 2013 and 2014, the entire project will hopefully encompass a period of five years.

In 2015 the Russian partners organised again an in-depth five-day course on restoration and preservation of paintings on canvas, and on the subject of attribution of Dutch and Flemish paintings. To continue the effective collaboration, the Dutch partners RCE, SRAL and SCI were requested again to contribute on the course. New this year was the focus on safety.

Project information

Visual art of the Northern and Southern Netherlands is admired worldwide. It is generally well documented and accessible to the public. There are, however, art collections outside the established academic and museum networks that contain important works, including artworks thought to have been lost.

The Foundation for Cultural Inventory (SCI) researches, digitizes and documents Dutch and Flemish cultural heritage in unknown museum collections. Rich collections can be found in Russian museums, with masterpieces in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. But also many local and regional museums have small collections of Dutch and Flemish art, sometimes containing unsuspected treasures.

These collections, and their administration and maintenance, constitute the main topic in a collaboration of ten museums in Siberia and three Dutch institutions. Since 2013 an annual Master class is organised on subjects such as art historical research, restoration, creating climate chests and the usage of modern techniques for research. In 2015 the Master class focussed on the influence of Dutch and Flemish art of painting on the Russian art.

In this Master class the different aspects of this subject were covered in lectures and workshops, presented by experts from the SCI and three Dutch institutions. Representatives of Siberian museums took part in this course. As a part of the seminar, they had an opportunity to get acquainted with foreign experience, to present their research and to share their experience with colleagues. The seminar was a bright example of fruitful international cooperation in preservation of museum cultural heritage. The project has contributed to the establishment of a network of trained professionals in Russia (Siberia), and knowledge transfer not only from the Dutch experts to the Russian colleagues, but also vice versa.

The Dutch contributions focussed on allocation, restoration and conservation of the paintings, and on safety and security for the heritage. A short resume of each contribution follows below:

Christiaan Vogelaar, curator of old master paintings and decorative arts, Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden:

The theme of the first lecture was the history of collecting Dutch paintings in Russia from the 17th century till the Revolution of 1917. The two visits of Tsar Peter the Great to the Dutch Republic led to widespread collecting of Dutch paintings not only at court. Influential noblemen arranged Dutch rooms and Dutch hamlets in and near Saint Petersburg to house their collections of a.o. Dutch paintings. During the 19th century the focus shifted to Moscow where wealthy merchants and bankers built immense collections that were often displayed in their palaces that were opened to the public. These collections laid the foundation of a number of public Moscow museums and a variety of museums in regional capitals such as Omsk, Ekatarinenburg, Nischny Novgorod, Serpouchov, Kazan, Saratov and Smolensk. Large collections of a.o. Dutch paintings that were seized after 1917 came to these institutions through the Governmental Art Fund.

The second lecture explored the interaction between traditional arthistorical research by museum curators and technical research by museum conservators. Traditionally both fields had different goals and methods. The lecture illustrated the current practice in The Netherlands where larger museums have set up research projects where curators and restorers work along each other. The case was illustrated by examples of recent research by the speaker on The Parable of the Hidden Treasure in the Szepmuvestivi Museum in Budapest that was formerly attributed to Rembrandt, and on the technical examination of a triptych by Lucas van Leyden with Christ and the Blind of Jericho at the restoration workshop of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Together with Kate Seymour (SRAL) a workshop was organized for all participants where curators and restorers worked together in analyzing restoration and research issues on a few specific paintings from the M.A. Vrubel Museum of Fine Art, Omsk. The sessions were followed by discussions on goals and methods of interdisciplinary arthistorical and restoration research in museums. In a workshop for all participants a number of case studies were presented on the attribution and research of a several specific Dutch master paintings by curators from museums in Jekatarinenburg and Alma Ata, Kazakhstan.

Kate Seymour, Head of Education, SRAL, Maastricht:

The influence of climate on the condition of paintings on canvas – and other typical damages

Studying a painting’s condition can provide evidence of the degradation that artwork has undergone. In addition to natural ageing that occurs in all of the materials that a painting is composed of, there are often damages due to the environmental conditions and resulting from past interventions by restorers. This presentation gave an overview of the kinds of damages that can be expected and why they occurred.

Problems outlined were:

• the response of the canvas support to fluctuations in relative humidity.

• the formation of cracks in the paint layers due to the mechanical response of the canvas support.

• review of the optimum conditions for displaying canvas paintings.

• review of damages that can occur to the canvas support.

• influence of dust and dirt on paint layers and the canvas support.

Workshop/Discussion: New (modern) techniques for the conservation of canvas paintings

This session involved the discussion of new lining systems developed and practiced at SRAL, Maastricht. A short lecture outlining the technique built on information given in a plenary session during the first seminar in 2013. During this presentation the participants, mostly conservators from museums in Siberia and Moscow, were encouraged to pose questions and relate information given to their own practice. This exchange of information was encouraged during a demonstration of the technique using a mock-up scenario. The Russian participants were at first skeptical as to results but by the end of the session were very enthusiastic about the technique.

Hanneke Nuijten, programme manager Safe Heritage, RCE & Renate van Leijen, specialist safe heritage, RCE:

• Presentation 1: Safe Heritage: an introduction, by Hanneke Nuijten

The first lecture described the importance of the awareness of safety in heritage. What do we do in The Netherlands concerning safety and security, and how? What do we accomplish? A story to introduce the theme and to inspire the present Russian museums.

Presentation 2: Be prepared… how do you do that? By Renate van Leijen

It could happen to you: an incident or even worse a disaster, in your museum. How to respond? Do you know how to act that moment? Are there instructions/procedures, that have been written down in a plan? An emergency plan is important, but how do you keep the plan alive? To train and practice the procedures is necessary to prevent the plan from becoming a ‘paper tiger’. This presentation also covered the use and necessity of registration and analysing incidents.

• Presentation 3: Taking the right measures starts by knowing the risks, by Renate van Leijen

We want to protect our heritage from threats that can cause damage, but our heritage must also be accessible to the public. The resources museums have, are often limited. How can you find a balance in taking the right measures to protect a collection and exhibiting the collection? This presentation was about the importance of a risk assessment and measures.

Presentation 4: What can we learn from fires in heritage? By Hanneke Nuijten

In the recent past, Dutch museums have experienced several bigger and smaller fires. This presentation took a closer look at some of these fires and analysed them in order to gain insight. Which preventative measures can the heritage manager take to reduce the risk of a fire? Are these complicated and expensive measures, or is it possible to make improvements in a simple way?

Workshop: Fire, water and theft: What can you do to reduce the risks? By Renate van Leijen and Hanneke Nuijten

The goal of this workshop was to create awareness of the damage factors fire, water and theft. The participants used the Vrubel Museum as a case study. They discussed the source, the path and the effect of fire, water and theft. For example: where, when and why does leakage occur, how will the water spread and what is the effect of the water to the collection and the building? Have measures been taken, or is it necessary to take measures to prevent or reduce damage? Are organizational, architectural or electronical measures the best? How about their own museum: what is the risk of fire, water and theft for their own collection, how can they protect their collection and historical building as well as possible? The participants learned that sometimes simple measures can be very valuable and easy to realize.

The lectures of both the Dutch and the Russian contributions will be included as articles in a publication.


Involved organisation(s)
Ministry of Culture of the Omsk Region
Omsk Regional M.A. Vrubel Museum of Fine Arts
Foundation for Cultural Inventory
The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency
Limburg Conservation Institute, Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL)

Funding organisation(s)
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Moscow, Russian Federation
State Research Institute for Restoration (Moscow)
Omsk Regional M.A. Vrubel Museum of Fine Arts

Involved expert(s)
Lia Gorter
Bernard Vermet
Kate Seymour
Christiaan Vogelaar
Hanneke Nuijten
Renate van Leijen

Experts referring to this project
Renate van Leijen
Hanneke Nuijten

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Publications / Documents


External link(s)

http://www.veilig-erfgoed.nl/en (English)
http://veilig-erfgoed.nl/ (Dutch)
http://culturalinventory.nl/ (English)

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