MIAMI BEACH, FLA.- The Bass Museum of Art
unveiled the recent conservation of the Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1492), a Renaissance altarpiece by Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (Sandro Botticelli, 1444/45-1510) and Domenico di Tommaso Bigordi (Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449-1494), now on view through October 24, 2019. With funding from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project, the painting underwent extensive conservation efforts under the leadership of Rustin Levenson, president and founder of ArtCare Conservation, and senior conservator Oliver Watkiss to clean and repair the surface layers, and reinforce the structural integrity of the more than 500-year-old masterpiece.
I think my initial impression was of the condition of the painting, states Levenson. Not surprisingly, after over 500 years, the work was in poor state. There were structural problems as well as aesthetic problems, so the challenge of organizing a treatment, one that would be good for the painting was fairly daunting. Levenson continues, Part of the assessment was separating what treatments happened before, what was original and what was overpaint from prior restoration efforts. We could identify at least two or three backings on the work that were added at various times, signaling several campaigns of restoration over the centuries. Despite these issues the composition, the sense of space, and beautifully rendered figures reflects the genius of the two artists.
What jumped out to me were the structural inconsistencies, adds Watkiss. There were large areas of the painting where you could see inlays, defamations and distortions playing against the light. These reflections shouldn't be there and it took away from the image itself. With these corrected, you can now see the image as it was intended to be seen over 500 years ago.
Overall, conservation efforts took approximately seven months. After conducting thorough analysis of the painting, including Infrared and X-ray imaging, conservators concluded that the altarpiece was originally done in fresco, a method of painting using water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster. It was transferred to canvas as an auxiliary support at an unknown point in time.
The Coronation is the only known collaborative composition between the Florentine Renaissance masters, and perhaps the last major work of Ghirlandaios career. The artists are known to have collaborated on many occasions during their careers, including the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, yet the Coronation is the only surviving example of their shared participation in the design and execution of a single piece. One of two altarpieces originally commissioned for the Badia Camaldolese of San Giusto e San Clemente in Volterra, Italy, the painting is the first catalogued artwork from the Museums founding collection, donated by John and Johanna Bass in 1963.
In 2020, the painting will travel to Paris, on loan to the Institut de France, Musée Jacquemart-André, for an important exhibition on the life and oeuvre of the Florentine painter Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known today as Sandro Botticelli, uniting a selection of his works from around the world.
"As an art museum, we are entrusted with both the honor and responsibility of acting as a custodian for art, caring for our collection and preserving its contents for future generations," says Silvia Karman Cubiñá, Executive Director of The Bass. "I thank Bank of America for their commitment to the arts and their generous patronage towards helping institutions maintain and preserve their collections. We are pleased to reintroduce this treasured piece of our founding collection.