Recently, our conservation department has discovered another important connection to the Monuments Men:
Recent research has shown that many ancient Egyptian metal objects were originally exuberantly colored, employing contrasting metal alloys or other inlays to highlight details or portions of a figure. These animated images show three ancient Egyptian artworks’ current condition and how they might have looked originally.
Museum conservators use modern technology to date and identify a 13th century Flemish reliquary. This large, church-shaped shrine once housed the relics of a 7th-century saint who served as a missionary and bishop to the western regions of present-day Belgium. St. Amandus (d. 679) also established a monastery at Elnon, near Tournai (western Belgium), where the monks later commissioned this reliquary to honor his remains.
The Bodhisattva Guanyin, a beautiful near-life-size figure, was a recent gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Made in China during the Ming period (early 15th–early 17th centuries), the sculpture made its journey from the Duke estate to the Walters 19th-century galleries, where it received treatment by the conservation department prior to going on view in the Hackerman House.
While ancient marble sculptures are often thought of as pristine and white, we know that many were once painted with bright colors. This sarcophagus is no different. Recently, while removing plaster and other old restoration materials, conservators have discovered several areas of what is believed to be original red paint.
Where there’s silver, there’s tarnish. While getting the tarnish off your flatware might be an occasional inconvenience, to museum curators and conservators, it’s a threat to irreplaceable works of art.
To protect these objects for generations to come, scientists from the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, have teamed up with conservators from the Walters Art Museum to develop and test a new, high-tech way to protect silver art objects and artifacts, using coatings that are mere nanometers thick.
Paintings are often requested for loans to exhibitions in other museums. To ensure that they remain in a safe, stable environment from the time they leave the Walters to the time they return, especially vulnerable paintings are enclosed in a climate-controlled, in-frame vitrine, made for the individual piece. The vitrine ensures that the encapsulated painting will remain in the Walters’ relative humidity outside the museum walls. Our video demonstrates the vitrine-making process on one of the Walters’ most famous paintings.