New Research on Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Islamic Ceramics Collection

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Image: Iran, Qajar Dynasty. Horse and Rider, 19th century. Tile; stonepaste (fritware) with polychrome glaze. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Hope, Eskenazi Museum of Art 62.183

 

The Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes forty-seven ceramic objects from the Islamic world dating from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries. These encompass all major forms – bowls, jars, pitchers, platters, and tiles – as well as some less common types such as human and animal figurines. Particularly notable are sixteen pieces of “cobalt-and-luster” ware, a type of pottery associated with the site of Raqqa, Syria, in the early thirteenth century. Acquired by the museum during the 1960s and 1970s, to date this extremely important and attractive collection has not been studied in any depth, nor have the majority of the pieces from it ever been published. Margaret Graves, Assistant Professor in Indiana University’s Department of Art History, and Judith Stubbs, the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art, are now undertaking a project to research this collection, through a grant awarded by Indiana University’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities program.

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Image: Syria, Raqqa. Albarello, early 13th century. Stonepaste (fritware) with cobalt decoration under a transparent glaze and luster overglaze painting. H. 10 x 5 1/2 in. (25.39 x 13.96 cm). Eskenazi Museum of Art 72.6.5

 

This project will include a technical investigation of all pieces in the collection using techniques such as UV and X-ray analysis, thermoluminescence testing, and conservation analysis. Additionally, Graves will be publishing scholarly articles about her research on this collection, and an online catalogue of the collection will be created. When completed this project will represent a significant addition to the field of Islamic art, and will mirror similar efforts recently undertaken by other museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Harvard Art Museums.

We will continue to share news from this exciting research happening at our museum as it is completed.

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Image: Iran. Aquamanile [Water Vessel] in the Form of a Ram, ca. 1170-1200. Stonepaste with luster painting over an opaque white glaze. H. 5 3/4 x W. 2 in. (14.6 x 5.07 cm). Eskenazi Museum of Art 60.58

If you have questions please contact us at iuam@indiana.edu

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

New Osiris Camera Can Look Inside A Painting

The IU Art Museum’s conservation department purchased an Osiris infrared camera in 2015 with funds awarded to the museum from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation. The infrared images made with the camera allow conservators to look through the surface paint layer of a painting at any underdrawing. This is used to understand the artist’s process and is a unique tool in authenticating works of art as well. WTIU’s program The Weekly Special interviewed Margaret Contompasis, the IU Art Museum’s Beverly and Gayl W. Doster Conservator of Paintings, and Conservation Assistant Ellen Lyon, about the new camera, and their current project analyzing twenty-nine paintings in the IU Art Museum’s permanent collection attributed to the nineteenth century American painter Thomas Chambers. Watch the video below. For more information you can also read a feature about the new camera at Inside IU.

Reconstructing History to Help Others See Beyond the Image

Last month IU Art Museum painting conservation technician Ellen Lyon attended a week-long technical art history workshop at the University of Delaware, taught by Brian Baade and Kristin deGhetaldi. The workshop was sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to highlight the working methods of Early Italian tempera painters. Each participant created a small-scale reconstruction of a 14th century Italian egg tempera painted panel by Giovanni Del Biondo from the Kress Collection at the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico (The IUAM has its own Kress Collection of 14 works, a 1961 gift of the Kress Foundation, many of which are on permanent view in our first-floor gallery.)

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The Biondo panel of the Hebrew Prophet was originally part of The Coronation of the Virgin high altarpiece in the Oratorio di San Lorenzo at San Giovanni Valdarno in Arezzo, in the Tuscany region of Italy. The outer pinnacle on the right wing (outlined in blue) is the Hebrew Prophet featured in this years’ workshop.

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The reconstruction is made to reveal the many layers below the image that are needed to create this type of work. The artist and/or studio began with a sanded and sized wooden panel and each subsequent layer on the reconstruction shows one or more steps in the process:

1. Wood
2. Animal glue sizing
3. Linen
4. Gesso grosso
5. Gesso sottile
6. Scraped gesso
7. Underdrawing with charcoal and then reinforced with black ink/incised lines/red bole
8. Burnished gold and areas of underpainting
9. Finished painting and punchwork added to gilding

Ellen’s reconstruction (photo to the left) shows each of these layers as a vertical band, enabling viewers to see clearly the order in which these materials were applied.

In the fall, Ellen will be sharing her workshop experience, finished panel, and pigment set with Tavy Aherne’s class, Artists’ Materials and Techniques. There are future plans for a presentation to the IUAM docents and a Noon Talk that will be open to the public. Please watch our calendar for the date.

Debra Hess Norris, chair and professor of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware describes the program in this way: “Since 2009, the University of Delaware has been awarded a series of grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to support the design and creation of digital and physical historically accurate reconstructions of selected paintings from the Kress Collection. Use of these didactics and associated lesson plans, as well as sample sets of historic pigments and their raw materials available upon request from the Kress Foundation, will inform and inspire scholars, students, and the general public about the making of art and the value of technical art history.”