It has been a brutal and emotional experience to follow the news this week. I posted a little meditation on Tuesday, and today I’m taking the distraction route. In these quick Takes I tried to include bits that are inspirational, uplifting, interesting, or beautiful.
Last week the President awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Father Emil Kapaun . His life and actions during the Korean War and in a Korean prisoner of war camp were inspirational and heroic. I was especially struck by “art” part of the story: the 4-foot-high crucifix carried by Father Kapaun’s fellow prisioners when they were released from the POW camp.
The crucifix was hand carved in honor of the Catholic priest by a Jewish prisoner Gerald Fink. Amazingly, Fink did not personally know the chaplain, having arrived at the camp after Fr. Kapaun’s had died:
Months after Father Kapaun died, a Jewish POW named Gerald Fink, captured after Kapaun’s death, began hand-carving a four-foot crucifix to honor the priest who was so beloved in the camp. It took months, and later cost Fink mistreatment at the hands of Communist guards; the cross is now on display at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School. - source
Fink carved the crucifix using implements that he fashioned from the metal arches of his military-issued shoes.
- The Wichita Eagle: Soldiers keep Kapaun’s memory alive - slideshow with 7 images of the soldiers and the crucifix
- The Denver post has many photos including color photos of the cross and the handmade implements used to carve it:
Yesterday, April 18, was World Heritage Day. According to last year’s information:
18 April is celebrated all over the world by a wide range of organisations and many ICOMOS National and International Scientific Committees. Events include scientific conferences and symposia, exhibitions, photography competitions, excursions, press conferences, the awarding of prizes, releasing press releases, publishing magazine articles and projecting films, among others. - source
While I can’t point you to any of those events, it’s always fascinating to investigate the various sites designated as “World Heritage Sites” - in person is nice, but it’s easy to vicariously explore online. Here is the list of UNESCO world Heritage Sites, with links to descriptions and photos.
One of my Quick Takes from April 2013 talked about a Tudor portait that was painted over another printing. Here are three more tales of what’s hidden under paintings:
In an extensive online article, “The hidden Leonardo,” the National Gallery of London explores, with text and illustrations, its discovery of underdrawing done by Leonardo beneath his famous masterpiece, The Virgin of the Rocks:
When curators and conservators examined Leonardo’s The Virgin of the Rocks, they hoped to find an underdrawing. What they did not expect to find was a completely different design, hidden under the paint.
Conservators at the Gallery used a technique called infrared reflectography to look through the layers of paint and reveal details of the preliminary drawings underneath. - source
- the extensive article (in 5 pages on the museum site)
New testing has revealed that underneath a 19th century fresco in the Louvre there might be another fresco, from ancient Rome:
Artists, including some of the great masters, sometimes re-used canvases, wiping out the initial image or covered old paintings with new works. They often did this in order to avoid the expense of buying a new canvas or to enhance colors and shapes in a prior composition. Frescoes likewise got a refresh, especially when the originals faded, owners tired of the image on the wall or property changed hands.
The scientists turned to terahertz technology when suspicions surfaced that a hidden image might lie beneath the brushstrokes of a precious 19th century fresco, Trois homes armés de lances, in the Louvre’s Campana collection. Giampietro Campana was an Italian art collector in the 1800s whose treasures are now on display in museums around the world. When Campana acquired a work of art, he sometimes restored damaged parts or reworked the original. Art historians believe that Campana painted Trois homes armés de lances after the fresco was removed from its original wall in Italy and entered his collection.
Jackson said that Campana’s painting in itself is valuable, and the terahertz revelations may have added value by showing that an authentic Roman fresco lies under it. - source
Scientists investigated the fresco using terahertz rays, the same technology behind the full-body security scans employed by airports. No other investigative technique revealed the underpainting, so to potential for discoveries in the art world is huge:
Says J. Biance Jackson, PhD, who reported on the project:
“No previous imaging technique, including almost half a dozen commonly used to detect hidden images below paintings, forged signatures of artists and other information not visible on the surface has revealed a lost image in this fresco,” Jackson said. “This opens to door to wider use of the technology in the world of art, and we also used the method to study a Russian religious icon and the walls of a mud hut in one of humanity’s first settlements in what was ancient Turkey.” - source
- the whole article at Science Daily, which includes pictures
The Prado museum in Madrid has restored a rare early 15th century French panel painting of the Agony in the Garden (pictured above), and in the process discovered and revealed the original rare portrait of Louis I, Duke of Orleans, which was had been obscured. A private owner brought the painting to the museum in 2011 and in the course of investigation x-rays revealed two figures in the lower left corner who had been overpainted: a donor and a patron.
The patron was fairly easily identified as Saint Agnes - signified by her accompanying lamb. The HIstory Blog tells the fascinating story of the restoration and identification of the donor figure:
Once liberated from their brown prison, the figures were revealed in all their brilliant glory. The colors were far brighter and richer than the colors on the saints and Jesus. The Donor’s scroll was found to be inscribed with the first words of the Psalm 50, aka the Miserere mei. The decorations on the sleeves turned out to be gold nettle leaves and they looked like appliqué rather than a fabric print.
The nettles were the key to the identification of Louis of Orléans. The nettle leaf was one of the duke’s emblems, one he particularly favored from 1399 until his death in 1407. Inventories of his possessions have survived and the 1403 inventory list “LXV feuilles d’or en façon d’orties,” meaning 65 gold leaves in the shape of nettles. He would have used these to decorate his clothes, like the dramatic fur-lined batwing houppelande the Donor wears in the painting. - source
- the Prado’s site has subtitled videos, here.
- see the article and video at the Art History News blog
- Barocci, detail from Immaculate Conception, c. 1574. source
An exhibit at The National Gallery of Art, London highlights the artist Federico Barocci and his influence on his contemporaries. The Herald, a British Catholic Newspaper, says that Barocci’s paintings show the glory of the Counter Reformation:
There are several reasons why one should go to the Barocci exhibition currently on at the National Gallery.
First of all, it is the opportunity of a lifetime to get to grips with this artist. Only two of his works have permanent homes in Britain: this exhibition gathers works from all four corners of the globe, so seeing such a considerable body of the artist’s work all in one place is not something that is likely to recur any time soon. The curators have assembled several canvases and the preparatory drawings too, so that enables us to see how the artist worked. …
The second reason to go is because Federico Barocci is an artist of whom – be honest – you have never heard, and a good artist too. Every now and then there is an attempt to claim that some half forgotten painter is a neglected genius, but in this case it is probably true. - source
- the National Gallery’s page - Barocci: Brilliance and Grace, with slides, video and other resources
-the whole article at the Catholic Herald
Here’s something that might be fun for you or your family: The National Trust in Great Britain is sponsoring an “I like Rembrandt” initiative:
Share your photos and doodles with us on social media, and we might put them into our bigger picture to create our very own Rembrandt. - source
You can send your original art via twitter or facebook to be part of the project.
For more Quick Takes, visit this week’s host blog, Camp Patton.