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Wednesday, May 31 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
054. (Research and Technical Studies) Blue Period? : Analysis muddies Tintoretto attribution and working practice

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Jacopo Robusti, better known as Tintoretto, was a prominent figure in the school of Venetian Renaissance art. A contemporary of Titian, Tintoretto became known for pushing boundaries and creating a dichotomy of works whose quality depended upon the speed at which he painted. Art historians have made the life of Tintoretto easily accessible with the amount of literature available, yet the limited information gathered through scientific examination of his works by Joyce Plesters is well documented. However, much of that work pre-dates the use of several modern analytical methods, such as x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and XRF mapping to analyze artworks. As such, two Tintorettos exhibited at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAM, Winter Park, FL), "Portrait of a Gentleman in Armor" (c. 1580) and "Portrait of a Venetian Senator" (c. 1575), were analyzed to better understand which working methods and materials best embodied a "Tintoretto.” Research of the two CFAM portraits started with an in-depth analysis of the paintings' accession history, conservation records, and various catalog entries prior to non-destructive x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) and infrared reflectography (IRR) analysis. Photomicrographs from a 1990 conservation treatment raised more questions than anticipated in the initial stages of research. In the photographs, a peculiar bright blue under layer was visible through several areas of loss in the "Armor" portrait. Combined with significant differences in the quality of brushstrokes between the two works, the curator began to question the true authorship of the "Portrait of a Gentleman in Armor." The investigation turned from an analysis of Tintoretto's materials and methods to an attempt to better inform the curatorial staff with regards to the attribution discussion: was the "Armor" portrait painted by (1) the currently attributed Jacopo Tintoretto, (2) Tintoretto's workshop, or (3) Tintoretto's son, Domenico? Non-destructive analysis, including XRF-mapping and IRR, did not answer the prevailing question, but instead prompted further queries. A strong copper signal was detected throughout most of the "Armor" portrait, instead of select areas as earlier hypothesized. The copper XRF signal, in combination with the mystery blue paint visible in the conservation photographs, may indicate a reused canvas or the presence of a second painting under the current painting. Several microscopic samples from the "Armor" portrait were examined under visible, ultraviolet and polarized light microscopy. Select samples were further imaged using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), allowed for the elucidation of the anatomy of the painting. Recent approval by the owners of the "Senator" portrait will allow for samples to be removed for the other Tintoretto for microscopic and spectroscopic analysis, for comparison with the "Armor" data. The paper will present the findings of this Tintoretto investigation, emphasizing the evidence to be culled from well kept curatorial and conservation records, as well as discussing the information gathered from non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical methods.

avatar for Dr. Amanda J. Norbutus

Dr. Amanda J. Norbutus

Visiting Assistant Professor, Rollins College
Amanda J. Norbutus, Ph.D., is a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Rollins College (Winter Park, FL) where she works with the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and the Rollins College Archives with objects such as Mr. Rogers’ iconic sweater and shoes. She is a lecturer in the science... Read More →


Lourdes Nunez

Student, Rollins College
Currently an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in studio art and a minor in art history from Rollins College (Winter Park, FL). Lourdes became involved with art conservation research as part of her interdisciplinary coursework focusing on the chemistry of... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Riverside West Exhibit Hall Exhibit Level, East Tower