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Thursday, May 31 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Paintings) A Convenient Method: Canvas Painting in 16th Century Florence

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In 16th century Italy, the use of canvas as a support for paintings was more closely associated with Venice than with Florence, yet Florentine painters utilized canvas for certain projects. It has been noted that this usually indicates that these paintings were created for specific purposes such as banners. However, these functions are not always so obvious, and this major clue to the origin of a work can go ignored. This study explores the reasons for using canvas by looking at the works themselves as well as contemporary writings including Vasari on Technique. Vasari, proudly grounded in the Tuscan tradition of panel painting, had a definite respect for the utility of canvas; he writes that it is a “convenient” support, a word which for him had ethical as well as practical connotations. Such research can help re-contextualize works especially those that were not originally conceived as independent paintings. By looking at materials and techniques, as well as evidence of damage and alteration, a painting has recently been identified as part of a temporary decoration (apparato) created for the Medici wedding of 1565; that case study is the core of this paper. At the time, such decorations were extremely important, created by the leading artists of the day, including Pontormo, Bronzino and Alessandro Allori. Designed as ephemera, few have survived, and they are almost forgotten as an art form. Canvas was “convenient” for these decorations not only because – as is often mentioned – it was cheaper, lighter and could be made quite large – but also because it could easily and thriftily be made to an exact, predetermined size so as to fit in an architectural framework that was itself the ancestor of the modern theater set. Using very simple examination techniques - measuring canvas widths, looking at seaming and scalloping as well as ground types and thicknesses and the range of pigments used – a great deal can be understood about this early modern installation art as well as other uses of canvas by artists for whom it was a specific choice. The advantages they found would then inform the more common use of canvas in later centuries.

avatar for Jean Dommermuth-[Fellow]

Jean Dommermuth-[Fellow]

Senior Conservator, ArtCare Conservation, A Rustin Levenson Company
BA in Art History and MBA, University of Illinois; MA in Art History and Diploma in Art Conservation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. After earning her graduate degree in conservation, Jean completed a two year internship focusing on the treatment of old master paintings... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 2:30pm - 3:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston
  6. Specialty Session, Paintings