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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Museum works hold secrets

    In what could pass as a chapter out of “”The Da Vinci Code,”” art displayed for nearly 50 years at the UA Museum of Art is being analyzed for hidden handwritten notes and sketches.

    The inscribed sketches and notes were made visible after the paint on one particular piece by artist Francisco Gallego began fading.

    Now, researchers at Meadows Museum in Dallas and Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, are examining the pieces using X-ray and reflectography technology to gain more clues about the lives and methods of Gallego and his associate, Maestro

    BartolomǸ, who once shared a workspace in 15th-century Spain, said Gary Nusinow, marketing director for the Museum of Art.

    “”Although many were sad to see the prized collection temporarily leave us, the research being done on it will be worth it,”” he said.

    The artwork is part of Gallego’s 26-piece exhibit “”Retablo of Ciudad Rodrigo.”” Originally, the artwork was part of a 60-foot-tall backdrop to the altar in the cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo, a small town in Spain near the Portugal border.

    Originally a 49-panel piece, only 26 of the original pieces survived the Peninsular War of 1808 when cannon fire partially destroyed the cathedral and some of Gallego’s art.

    The remaining artwork was sold off in 1879 and later acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, which then donated the art to the UA in 1961, Nusinow said.

    Gallego painted the surviving panels in the 1480s, telling the Bible’s story in dramatic, vivid images, Nusinow said.

    To expose charcoal sketches and handwritten notes under the panels’ pigment, researchers at the Kimball Art Museum are using infrared cameras under the direction of art conservator Claire Barry, said Amanda Dotseth, assistant curator at Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, another museum involved in the analysis.

    In BartolomǸ’s piece titled “”Creation of Eve,”” the infrared cameras have captured a sketch of Eve in a kneeling position, which is different from the final placement, which shows Eve coming from Adam’s rib.

    Other infrared analysis shows handwritten notes made by Gallego about which colors should go where, Dotseth said.

    “”We don’t know yet whether the notes were intended to be

    instructions to workshop assistants on what pigments to mix, or whether they were just meant to be personal reminders,”” she said.

    The study on the panels is a collaborative effort representing several

    institutions’ work and resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Getty Research Institute, Dotseth said.

    The analysis is expected to be complete in March, when the Meadows Museum will display the 26 panels in a four-month exhibition before their eventual return to the UA, said Tory Winkleman, Meadows Museum marketing director.

    Notes on some pieces have already begun to be uncovered, and researchers have determined that sketches are present on every piece, Dotseth said.

    “”It’s very exciting,”” she added. “”We’re looking at things that haven’t been seen in 500 years.””

    Undeclared sophomore Ashley Ali was surprised that the paintings held secrets.

    “”I think it’s weird that it’s stayed hidden so long,”” she said. “”It makes you wonder if there’s anything under any others’ (paintings).””

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