I have recently written about our trip to Gdańsk and the exciting encounter with Hans Memling’s work of art. Barely a few weeks have passed, and we’re experiencing new emotions and a great responsibility again – another world class masterpiece has landed on the laps of museum conservators and scientists from the NMK.
In accordance with the agreement with the Director of the Diocesan Museum in Siedlce, which is the owner of El Greco’s painting titled The Ecstasy of St. Francis, after a several-week-long exposition in EUROPEUM, this sole painting by the Master of Toledo in the possession of a Polish museum was transferred to another branch of the National Museum in Krakow, which houses our Laboratory for Analysis and Non-Destructive Research into Artefacts (LANBOZ).
Here, “St. Francis” was greeted by a specialist easel, research equipment and a team of museum experts, who in the presence of guests from the Diocesan Museum in Siedlce conducted comprehensive, non-invasive tests and documented the current preservation state of the object. The tests involved the use of hyperspectral camera, creating a full set of photographs in visible and analytical light (IR, UV, X-ray), macro photography shots and pigment analysis using XRF X-ray fluorescence spectrometer.
This set of tests is becoming an increasingly common museum practice in relation to the most valuable works of art, and it seems that we can now talk about a new international standard regarding research and of conservation of works of art. A standard, which for the last few years has been actively implemented by the National Museum in Krakow. Thanks to LANBOZ, we have carried out extensive research and documented the condition of numerous masterpieces, including Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci and the above mentioned Last Judgement by Hams Memling. We are continuously creating and updating our database of techniques, technology and the condition of various works of art.
Not only does this knowledge allow us to learn nearly everything about an object (although luckily for us and our successors, there are always some unanswered questions left!), but also it unquestionably constitutes invaluable material that allows for precise monitoring of the condition of a given work both now and in the future, while successively repeated “check-ups” and proper damage prevention give us a chance to preserve the works in good condition for centuries to come.
Janusz Czop – Deputy Director for Conservation and Collection Storage at the National Museum in Krakow.
Photographs: NMK Archives