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Detective work reveals truth about 500-year old paintings in new exhibition at the National Gallery of Denmark
Unknown artist (1500-1600), Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple. Privately-owned, ca. 1530.

COPENHAGEN.- We usually only see the surface of a painting, but the exhibition Illuminated – Tracing Bosch and Bruegel gives you the chance to get right under the skin of four 16th century paintings. Visitors have a rare opportunity to be introduced to cutting-edge research methods and technologies, and the exhibition reveals the startling findings unearthed by careful study. The exhibition was created in close collaboration between art pilots from the u.l.k. Art Labs and the Gallery’s conservators, and conservation scientists, educators.

Bosch, Bruegel, or…?
Four Netherlandish 16th century paintings located at the Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn, Glasgow Museums, the National Gallery of Denmark, and a private collection have prompted discussions on the topic of genuine and “fake” paintings. We do not know who painted these four almost identical paintings, but the use of materials and iconography points towards the two Netherlandish master painters Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516) and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1527-1569). During this period of art history, copying – of subject matter and techniques – was very widespread, so it is not possible to determine who executed the paintings simply by looking at them. Now, the conservators’ and researchers’ studies, techniques, scrutiny of archival materials, and art historical analyses have brought us closer to resolving the mystery surrounding the origins of the four paintings.

The paintings journey
The conservators at the National Gallery of Denmark have taken part in a collaborative project that extends across national borders and a range of different professions in order to get closer to the Netherlandish 16th century artist. The exhibition focuses attention on the painting’s journey right from the point where the wooden panels were still part of a Polish forest up to the present-day technical studies conducted by conservators and scientists. By means of X-ray and infrared imaging, reflectography, UV light, dendrochronology, and pigment analyses the scientists have resolved some of the mysteries that have persisted up until now: Are the paintings genuine? Who painted them? Where do the paintings come from?

Art Pilots and CATS
Based on a shared mission of making the Gallery’s knowledge about art visible and available to users - many different people and professions – conservators, scholars of technical art history, art educators, and young volunteers from the Gallery’s social platform, the u.l.k. Art Labs have joined forces to present these centuries-old paintings and their origins to young audiences today. The Gallery’s own version of the painting can be found in the exhibition, while the digital material offers visitors the chance to delve into the various layers and strata of all four paintings. Together, the exhibition team has produced a dynamic show that encompasses a complex web of mutual relationships; one that invites audiences to explore the conservators’ – and their partners’ – workshops and laboratories.

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