Conservation

A woman with long hair and glasses is leaning over a light table in a laboratory to examine a sheet of paper.

Understanding Paper: Structures, Watermarks, and a Conservator’s Passion

Paper conservation fellow Leonie Müller guides readers in an examination of paper’s material qualities and explains how its structures reflect the process of how it’s made.

By Leonie Müller

There are two images side by side of a dark brown vessel with two curved handles. In the image on the left, the vessel has light surface crusts, dark patches, and no base. In the image on the right, the vessel’s surface is shiny and dark brown and black, with a base of the same color.

Finding Its Footing: The Puzzles of an Ancient Amphora

In their collaborative effort to reconstruct the base of an ancient vessel, a conservator and a curator make unexpected discoveries.

By Haddon Dine, Susanne Ebbinghaus

Art Talk: What Can We Learn from an Ancient Silver Fragment?

A modern reconstruction of a fragmentary ancient object reveals details about its original appearance and its highly skilled manufacture.

This photograph shows a piece of aluminum foil with a black square on it. The foil is inside a block of glass with a pedestal.

Something You Can’t See

Charlene Briggs, receptionist in the Art Study Center, delves into the story behind one of the most famous materials in the Forbes Pigment Collection.

By Charlene Briggs

Two people, whose backs are to us, are in front of a large-scale abstract painting. The person on the left is standing and is applying a long cotton swab to the painting. The person on the right is wearing a visor and sitting on a stool. The painting consists of interlocking ribbed curves in shades of green against a lighter green background, punctuated with smaller red shapes.

Art Talk: Lifting the Veil from Herbert Bayer’s Verdure

In celebration of the Bauhaus centennial, one of the largest paintings in the Harvard Art Museums collections was cleaned and restored while being studied alongside preparatory works in the collections.

On the left, a blue photographic image shows a raised subway platform under construction. On the right, an image shows a woman holding a blue square cyanotype print featuring a collage of photographic negatives of people.

Art Talk: Cyanotypes—Art and Science at Home

Conservation scientist Julie Wertz talks about the science and process of cyanotypes, also demonstrating how to make one at home.

In this drawing on light brown paper, a slender man sits atop a horse, his back turned to the viewer. The horse is indicated by only a few black strokes that define its torso and saddle. The man holds the reins and firmly plants a foot in a stirrup. A few highlights of white dot his shirt and pants, and his sleeves are colored bluish black. His grey face is seen in profile, as he looks to the right. He wears a visor cap that shades his eyes. In the lower left side, the artist’s signature, “Degas,” appears in a red stamp.

Homecoming for a Degas Drawing

Paper conservator Anne Driesse discusses the treatment of a long-lost Degas drawing that only recently returned to the museums.

By Anne Driesse

A woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair, wearing a light brown sweater, sits very close to an unframed painting of geometric shapes set on an easel. Beyond the easel are gray cabinets and to the left is a white wall with a door.

Faktura, Not Fiction: El Lissitzky’s Proun 12E

The market for Russian avant-garde paintings has been plagued with forgeries. Paintings conservator Ellen Davis shows—through the results of her technical examination—exactly how El Lissitzky’s Proun 12E stands apart from the fakes.

By Ellen Davis

A large rectangular off-white linen textile lies flat on a large table. Four people stand around the table looking at the textile, a set of large windows behind them. The textile has four purple squares in the middle and pairs of purple bands at either end. The central area contains loops of pile fabric with stripes of red, green, and blue loops bordering the purple bands. A man in the background at far right is standing at a table working.

Unraveling the (Production) Secrets of an Egyptian Textile

Conservation fellow Julie Wertz studied a large, early Byzantine textile in our collections to discover how it was produced.

By Julie H. Wertz

Roughly square in format, the black and white drawing on bluish-gray paper depicts a dromedary in three-quarter view. The animal’s head is turned to face the viewer. It wears a bridle, and long tufts of fur hang from its neck and sprout from its hump.

Making Blue Paper in the French Countryside

Our paper conservator journeyed to France to learn how to make blue paper in the traditional way.

By Penley Knipe