Research projects
Master of Elsloo

The works of the late-medieval sculptor the ‘Master of Elsloo' in Belgian ownership: art-historical and technical research in an international perspe

Promoter: Christina Ceulemans

Project within the framework of the research campaign Stimulation of Research in the Federal Scientific Institutes (Action 1) - 2010-2011

The project consists of a technical and art-historical study of the works of the late medieval wood sculptor the Master of Elsloo. Few late-medieval sculptors have been attributed such an extensive oeuvre as the Master of Elsloo, whose conventional name derives from a Virgin and Child with Saint Anne from the St. Augustine Church of Elsloo, a sculpture which in the nineteenth century was still listed in the inventory of the Munster Church in Roermond. Almost 200 works of the Master have been identified, around 70 of which are in Belgium, mainly in the province of Limburg. His other works are found in the Netherlands and Germany, in the region that is currently referred to as the Euregio Maas-Rijn. In some important foreign museums, The Master of Elsloo is represented as well.

The aim of this study, set up within the framework of an ambitious three-part international collaboration project (Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany), is to draw up a survey on the Elsloo-works. With its photographic inventory and expertise in the domaine, IRPA/KIK is the logical choice for conducting the Belgian component. By means of art-historical, technical and archival research, we aim to gain insights into the production and workshop of the Master, as well as in similar workshops. One particularly interesting aspect will be the dendrochronological research.

Visit website
Mittelalterliche Portale als Orte der Transformation

Bamberg, Germany

Research project on Medieval church portals by the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg
Institut für Archäologie, Denkmalkunde und Kunstgeschichte
Lehrstuhl für Kunstgeschichte, insb. Mittelalterliche Kunstgeschichte

Visit website
Mittelalterliche Retabel in Hessen

Research project on Medieval Altarpieces in Hessen by the Kunstgeschichtliches Institut of the Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main

> The project page on Fotoarchiv Marburg

Visit website
Study and conservation-restoration treatment of the statue of Our Lady of the Tower portal of Saint Martin’s Basilica in Halle, end of the 14th century

This 600-year-old polychromed stone statue had all but passed into oblivion by the end of the 20th century. The original appearance of the Madonna and Child was hidden behind several layers of paint, dust and dark-greyish black crusts. Hence, a restoration was in order. Initially, the church fabric asked external specialists to examine the sculpture. They discovered that its chest concealed a large rhinestone, so the IRPA-KIK was engaged to carry out a stratigraphic study of the consecutive polychromic layers. For this was the first time an inlaid cabochon – a technique used particularly in goldsmithing and wood sculpture – was found as decoration on a medieval stone sculpture. The stratigraphic study of the finishing layers already reveals that the Madonna and Child has played an important role in the cult for a long time since it has always been taken good care of. Indeed, the sculpture has been polychromed at least twelve times by means of different techniques: gilding, glacis, as well as composite paint layers owith the rich colour effects the Flemish Primitives are well-known for. The rhinestone cabochon is part of the original decoration of the Madonna from the 14th century. The restoration will clear the surface of the sculpture until the second overpainting is exposed. To that end, the thick layer of later overpaintings will have to be carefully removed using a stereomicroscope and a scalpel. Since this is a very time-consuming and therefore expensive enterprise, it will be financed for the most part by the King Baudouin Foundation. The sculpture is expected to be ready for exhibition at the Basilica in Halle by the summer of 2014.

Visit website
Study and restoration of the Sedes Sapientiae of the Church of Saint-Laurent of Séron-sous-Forville (province of Namur)

At the request of the Société archéologique de Namur and the Musée des Arts anciens du Namurois, the Sedes Sapientiae of Séron-sous-Forville (exhibited at the Musée des Arts anciens du Namurois) is undergoing a technological study and conservation-restoration treatment. This sculpture is one of the few Sedes Sapientiae from the 12th century in Belgium that has not undergone drastic alterations in the course of its history. The stratigraphic and topographic study of the polychromy made possible the documentation of the original polychromy; the latter, apart from a few traces, has not survived. The first repaint, dated to the 14th century, is particularly well preserved, but covered by scattered overpaint and colour washes of mediocre quality that disturb the reading of the work. Consequently, it was decided to uncover the first repaint, an operation which is currently taking place.

During this treatment, the sculpture was shown at the BELvue museum as part of an exhibition presenting projects supported by the Courtin-Bouché Fund for the protection of Belgian art over the past 5 years (from 24/06/2009 until 20/09/2009, BELvue museum, Brussels).

Visit website
The Digital Sculpture Project

3D digital modeling often encounters a barrier when confronted with the kind of complex geometry that characterizes most sculpture. Through its Digital Sculpture Project, theVirtual World Heritage Laboratory is pioneering new solutions and applications in this important but neglected area of the digital humanities.

This website is devoted to studying ways in which 3D digital technologies can be applied to the capture, representation and interpretation of sculpture from all periods and cultures. Up to now, 3D technologies have been used in fruitful ways to represent geometrically simple artifacts such as pottery or larger-scale structures such as buildings and entire cities. With some notable exceptions, sculpture has been neglected by digital humanists. The Digital Sculpture Project will fill this gap by focusing on the following issues:

3D data capture and documentation

Digital restoration

Digital tools for the processing and analysis of digitized sculpture, including colorization

Analysis of earlier forms of sculptural reproduction, particularly the cast.

Visit website
The Limestone Sculpture Provenance Project

Because many sculptures in public collections were removed from their original sites long ago, scientists and art historians have collaborated to answer questions concerning their geographic origin and attribution. One way in which scientists contribute to solving these problems is by determining the stone’s composition using neutron activation analysis.

Small samples of stone removed from a sculpture, monument or quarry are irradiated in a nuclear reactor to produce radioactive isotopes of elements present in the stone. These isotopes decay by emitting energy which can be measured to identify and quantify the elements in the stone. Stones from different sources may have distinctive compositional patterns – “profiles” - with which data for a sculpture under study may be compared.

The Limestone Database contains samples from sculptures in museum collections, from quarries in the Ile-de-France, Normandy, Burgundy, Périgord, and the Nile Valley, as well as from French monuments and British cathedrals. Compositional information in the database is used to group sculptures and relate them to quarry stone by using multivariate statistical techniques.

Visit website
The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy

The ongoing expansion and renovation of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon has created the opportunity for these exceptional works to travel together to the United States. The tombs of the first and second dukes of Burgundy have been displayed since the early 19th century within the dukes' medieval palace, which now forms part of the Museum. These galleries will be renovated between 2010 and 2012, providing a first and only opportunity to present the full suite of mourners independent of the architectural framework of the tomb itself, allowing the sculptures to be viewed and appreciated as discrete works of art. While the mourners from the tomb of Philip the Bold will remain on view in another portion of the museum, those from the tomb of John the Fearless are making an unprecedented tour. From March 2010 through May 30, 2012 they are traveling to seven American museums: six FRAME (French Regional & American Museum Exchange) member museums and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They will then make a final stop in Paris, at the Musée National du Moyen-Age / Thermes de Cluny, before they return to Dijon, where they will resume their eloquent perambulations.

This journey also provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create new digital high-resolution, multi-perspective, and stereo 3D photography of these masterpieces, which would supplement and support the exhibition tour. Over a four day period during the mourners' removal from their arcade and before their transit to the U.S., a multi-discipline technical team from FRAME joined Dijon's staff, and staff on site from the Dallas Museum of Art (the American tour organizer) to create an ad hoc photo studio and produce more than 14,000 photographs of the sculptures. This web site is the first fruit of that effort, and will be expanded with more mourner-related resources in the months ahead.

In the future, a library of those images is expected to be made widely available, without charge, to scholars, students, educators and the public. In this way, FRAME, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, and the People of Dijon have assured a lasting legacy for the visit of these treasures.

The exhibition is supported by a leadership gift from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.Additional support is provided by the Florence Gould Foundation, the Eugene McDermott Foundation, Connie Goodyear Baron and Boucheron.Major corporate support is provided by Bank of the West - Member BNP Paribas Group.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.

The Mourners Photography Project is made possible by a generous grant from The Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Visit website
The St Denis Altarpiece of the Collegial church of St Denis in Liège. Study and conservation-restoration.

The Altarpiece with the Passion of Christ and the Life of Saint Denis from the collegial church of Saint Denis in Liège is an exceptional piece of Belgian heritage, due to the quality of the wood carving, the original partial polychromy and its large scale. The altarpiece dates from the beginning of the 16th century and is around 5.20 m in height and 3.25 m in width. It consists of an upper part, the coffer, depicting the Passion of Christ, and a lower part, the predella, representing the Life of St Denis. The painted wings that were originally attached to the coffer were removed at the end of the 18th century.

The conservation project facilitated the study of several facets of the art work in detail. This included structural analysis of the different parts, archive study of the historical interventions, visual and stratigraphical studies of the polychromy, analysis of the paint layers, dendrochronological dating and study of the style of the carving.

Visit website
VISTAS. Virtual Images of Sculpture in Time and Space

VISTAS is an acronym for Virtual Images of Sculpture in Time And Space. Founded by Hester Diamond, Jon Landau and Fabrizio Moretti, VISTAS subsidizes the publication of new scholarship on European sculpture of the late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, 1250-1780.

VISTAS combines old and new. We marry the most innovative technology to the highest standard of traditional book publishing — all in support of sound, new scholarship. We produce dual publications, one part in print, the other online at www.vistasvisuals.org. Each will supplement the other, not copy it.

Our target audiences are art lovers, curators, art historians and students. One of our goals is to provide an enjoyable experience for the reader.

Visit website