Following the success of the initial project, we succeeded in securing funding from the Henry Moore Foundation and the KT Wiedemann Foundation to go further in our analysis of the 14-century sculpture of the Madonna and Child.

Questions remained unanswered – particularly the authenticity and purpose of an under-drawing which was discovered during the conservation of the sculpture in phase one of the project, and whether the palette and techniques found in the original polychrome layer were comparable to other pieces in the Gualino group. Testing our data against others in the Gualino group was the next step in order to be able to gain a more meaningful insight into workshop practices in 14th-century Italy.

Making our findings accessible to the public had always been a key goal and the second phase of the project would also allow us to achieve this.

Project goals

  • Characterisation of the under-drawing material and techniques.
  • A collated body of information on 14th-century under-drawing following research trips and analyses in Boston USA, and Italy.
  • Evaluation of differences and similarities of technique on the polychromy of works by the ‘Master of St Catherine of Gualino’, focussing on Isabella Stuart Gardiner’s St Agnes and the Umbrian Madonna and Child.
  • Creation of a 3-D rendered colour model depicting an impression of construction, application of under-drawing followed by our interpretation of the original colour scheme on the Umbrian Madonna and Child (based on scientific analysis carried out during stage 1 of the project).
  • Publication of digital model online.
  • Production of scholarly paper and presentation on under-drawing research.
  • New collaborations with colleagues in Italy and the USA.

Project team

Diana de Bellaigue, Artefact Conservator
Lore Troalen, Scientist
Xavier Dectot, Keeper of Art & Design
Jerome Castel, student intern in Collections Science Section

External contributors

Jessica Chloros, Isabella Stuart Gardiner Museum, Boston USA
Mark Richter, University of Glasgow
Jennifer Anstey, MA student, University of Glasgow
Sam Ramsay, Glasgow School of Simulation and Visualisation
Jared Benjamin, Glasgow School of Simulation and Visualisation
Tom Challands, University of Edinburgh
Ailsa Murray and Damiana Magris, Historic Environment Scotland

Under-drawing

Infrared imaging confirmed the presence of under-drawing directly on the wood in three areas where wood is exposed:

The Virgin’s eyes
The Christ Child’s eyes
The Virgin’s tunic.

Infrared Reflectography revealing an under-drawing of the Madonna's eyes on the wooden sculpture

Above: Infrared Reflectography reveals the under-drawing.

A sample analysed using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) confirms this to be carbon-based.

Binding media analysis was not possible due to constraints of analytical equipment at our disposal.

Analysing the Isabella Stuart Gardiner Museum (ISGM) St Agnes

Polychrome statue of St Agnes thought to be by the Master of St Catherine of Gualino. An analysis of statue with Xavier Dectot, Diana de Bellaigue, Nat Silver, ISGM curator, and Jessica Chloros, ISGM conservator.

Above: Polychrome statue of St Agnes thought to be by the Master of St Catherine of Gualino. An analysis of statue with Xavier Dectot, Diana de Bellaigue, Nat Silver, ISGM curator, and Jessica Chloros, ISGM conservator.

Working with conservators at the ISGM, St Agnes was analysed using the following techniques:

  • Surface elemental analysis using a portable XRF
  • 2D x-radiology
  • Paint sampling and cross sectional sample analysis (SEM, FTIR, UV imaging).

Paint samples were brought back to the UK for analysis included in a student project by Jerome Castel, supervised by Lore Troalen.

Jerome Castel carrying out cross section analysis at National Museums Scotland: looking down a microscope at a sample.

Above: Student intern Jerome Castel carrying out cross-section analysis at National Museums Scotland.

The samples are due to be sent back to Boston for UV imaging in the Conservation Department.

A joint paper on the results comparing methods and techniques on our two sculptures is planned for 2019/2020

3D rendered colour model and online publication: Glasgow University MA Dissertation project

We collaborated with Dr Mark Richter lecturer in technical art history at the University of Glasgow. Working with a Technical Art History student on her Master’s dissertation, we prepared sample boards using the materials revealed through scientific analysis in phase one of the project. She researched the techniques and recipes required to make the paints and made these up in the lab. We then painted out sample boards using these materials and techniques.

 Grinding Verdigris with a pestle and mortar, and sample boards painted out with 7 coats of gesso followed by pigments and metallic foils

 Above: Grinding Verdigris (left) and sample boards painted out with seven coats of gesso followed by pigments and metallic foils.

Traces of original decorative detail are evident on the surface of the sculpture in places and the cross-section data supported this with combinations of metal foils and glazes. However, despite the clues for several areas, we had no concrete evidence of how this decoration may have looked. With the help of Helen Wyld, Senior Curator of Historic Textiles at National Museums Scotland, we looked for cross-references in contemporaneous panel painting. Choosing simplified designs to avoid too much fanciful make believe, we selected various patterns for the neckline of the Virgin’s tunic and the Christ child’s cloak. We were lucky in that the pattern on the Child's cloak could be seen clearly with Infrared Reflectography, so this pattern could be copied.

Infrared Reflectography showing an image of the flower pattern on Christ’s robe (left) and the painted out version on sample board.

Above: Infrared Reflectography showing an image of the flower pattern on Christ’s robe (left) and the painted out version on sample board.

Work with Glasgow School of Simulation and Visualisation (SimVis)

In phase one of the project, Glasgow School of Simulation and Visualisation or SimVis had made a 3D structured light scan of the Madonna and Child. We now commissioned the use of this to make a 3D colour-rendered model. We wanted to be able to show the construction of the wood, the under-drawing, the preparation layers and the polychrome surface.

To achieve this, SimVis combined their model with a model of the wooden core created using the CT scan data by Tom Challands of Edinburgh University. The result is an animation showing the sculpture in the round, starting with the carved wooden elements assembled with nails (from the CT data), then the marking in of the underdrawing, the coating of white calcium sulphate preparation layer or ‘gesso’, followed lastly by the polychrome surface including impressions of the brocaded surface. Areas for which there was not enough polychromy data were left wood-coloured in the model. Equally, for the skin tones, where recreating the subtleties of a textured tonal painted surface would be particularly difficult, we decided to leave wood-coloured.

Structured light scan with surface rendered to match the current appearance on the left.

Above: Structured light scan with surface rendered to match the current appearance on the left.

Coloured rendered model made from CT data depicting the construction elements of the statue – main trunk with wooden additions and nails indicated in green

Above: Coloured rendered model made from CT data depicting the construction elements of the statue: the main trunk with wooden additions and the nails, indicated in green.

This film shows how the sculpture was created and may originally have looked.

Supported by

Henry Moore Foundation   

KT Wiedemann Foundation

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