Caroline Villers Research Fellowship
Previous Fellows and Their Projects
CAROLINE VILLERS RESEARCH FELLOWs 2011-2012
There will be two Caroline Villers Research Fellows in 2011-12; Dr B.D. Nandadeva of the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and Dr Jim Harris of the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Tomb figure of Andrew Bayninge, polychromed alabaster, 1610; St Olave Hart Street, London. Photograph © Jim Harris, 2010
Jim Harris completed his PhD thesis, Donatello’s Polychromed Sculpture: Case Studies in Materials and Meaning at the Courtauld in 2010 and was subsequently appointed Andrew W Mellon Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellow for 2011. During the course of his research he undertook the first technical examination of Donatello’s Entombment relief from the High Altar of the Santo in Padua, investigating samples of its polychromy in order to reconstruct the physical history of its surface. The stratigraphic analysis of the polychromy revealed a series of campaigns of repair and repainting which provided material evidence explaining differences between the descriptions of the relief published over the course of its lifetime, and connecting its changing surface to the documented history of its movement, damage and restoration.
As the Caroline Villers Research Fellow for 2011-12, Jim will be applying this methodology to a body of sculpture surviving from one of the most turbulent periods of English history, the Long Reformation, from the Elizabethan settlement through the Laudian controversies of the reign of Charles I to the Puritan revolution and the Commonwealth, The churches of St Olave Hart Street, in the City of London and St Margaret’s, Westminster each contain remarkable groups of tomb sculptures, representing very different constituencies. St Olave’s tombs commemorate members of London’s commercial bourgeoisie, while those in St Margaret’s represent members of the court and the political classes. Although a great deal of documentary research has been undertaken concerning church interiors of this period, little physical evidence has been brought to bear on their investigation except in relation to the loss and destruction of their sculptural content. This project will seek to determine whether these tombs were altered, repaired or simply left alone in an age of radically shifting theological, liturgical and aesthetic priorities.
Bust of Peter Turner, polychromed alabaster, 1614; St Olave, Hart Street, London. Photograph © Jim Harris, 2011
By analysing samples of original, repainted and residual polychromy on objects known to have remained in St Olave throughout the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Jim hopes to shed light on the treatment of coloured and gilded sculpture at a time when it was falling from favour artistically, and in a climate of mounting opposition to certain kinds of display and ostentation. In addition, the project will gather evidence on the material history of the church through later periods, including the Great Fire of London and its restoration following the Blitz of 1940. It is also proposed that the study include a number of coeval monuments at St Margaret's and discussions are currently underway with the authorities at Westminster Abbey concerning the necessary permissions to carry out the work.
Over the course of his fellowship, Jim will be presenting his work in the Courtauld Research Forum and leading field trips to see the sculpture in situ. He also hopes to organise a conference on sculptural polychromy at the Courtauld in late 2012 or early 2013.
B.D. Nandadeva (Nanda) who is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka earned his PhD in Art Conservation Research from the University of Delaware, USA. He also holds a Graduate Diploma in Rock Art Conservation from the University of Canberra, Australia, an M.Sc. in Architectural Conservation of Monuments and Sites from the University of Moratuva, and a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts form the University of Ceylon, Sri Lanka. He has also spent two years attached to the University of Thessaloniki and the British School of Archaeology at Athens, undertaking an independent study on Greek and Byzantine art. In his doctoral dissertation, he characterized the materials and techniques of Buddhist temple paintings from Sri Lanka using a range of analytical techniques that include optical microscopy, x-ray diffraction using powder cameras, FTIR, SEM, EDX, and TLC. The analytical results were used to compare the technological similarities and differences between three stylistically distinct schools of Buddhist temple paintings from three different geo-political regions of colonial Ceylon. He has also published or presented papers at international conferences on a variety of subjects related to Sri Lankan art and culture that include: rock art of a native hunter-gatherer community called the Vedda; a terracotta figurine art of rice-farming peasant communities of the dry-zone; rural earthen architectural traditions and techniques; Western influence on Buddhist temple paintings of colonial Ceylon; Ola-leaf manuscript cover paintings; the influence of war on contemporary art and artists; conservation issues in polychrome paintings on wood.
As the Caroline Villers Research Fellow, Nanda will characterize the materials and techniques of Buddhist temple paintings from the Southern and the Western maritime region (low-country) that was under the heavy influence of the Dutch and British colonial rule and are thought to have been executed by painters who belonged to the ‘exorcist-astrologer’ caste of the ‘low-country’, a low cast that remained outside the traditional painters’ caste. He will examine the hypothesis that the low-country non-traditional painters of the ‘exorcist-astrologer’ caste who were ignorant of the traditional Sinhalese painting technology of the ‘up-country’ borrowed painting materials and techniques from the Europeans, and also introduced the materials and techniques that they used in exorcist rituals with which they were familiar. He will characterize samples of paint, priming, and ground layers collected from temple wall paintings from Sri Lanka, using techniques such as optical microscopy, x-ray diffraction using powder cameras, FTIR, SEM, EDX etc. He expects to disseminate the outcomes of his study through presentations to the Courtauld Research Forum and at international conferences, and through publications.
CAROLINE VILLERS RESEARCH FELLOW 2010-2011
Clare Richardson & Kate Stonor
In 2009-10 Clare and Kate undertook the restoration of the Courtauld Gallery’s important early Rubens, Moses and the Brazen Serpent and their research as Villers Fellows was stimulated by their technical findings. During 2011, the gallery was awarded Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project sponsorship to fund work on Rubens’ Cain Slaying Abel, and Clare and Kate were able to undertake this work alongside their Villers fellowship. This conservation work allowed them to make particularly close study of Cain Slaying Abel. Fortuitously, during their fellowship, a re-hang of the galleries also allowed exceptional access to the galleries’ wider group of early Rubens paintings.
Kate and Clare undertook full technical examination of the group of early Rubens paintings in the Courtauld Collection in order to investigate his studio practise and working methods. Their investigation has shed new light on this group, suggesting earlier dates for some works and the involvement of studio specialists in others. Art historical research and collaboration with curators and conservators from various institutions helped Kate and Clare to interpret their findings and make suggestions about the speculative nature of some of the commissions. In particular, extensive investigation of the Conversion of St. Paul series using dendrochronology, infrared reflectography, x-radiography and paint sampling has revealed previously unknown pentimenti at every stage of the compositional development, and allowed for new hypotheses on the development of the series from oil sketch to drawing through to the final painted version.
During their fellowship, Kate and Clare gave three lectures on their research in the Research Forum to a wide audience of students, academics and museum professionals. The project’s findings were discussed widely with students during their work in the Conservation and Technology Department. Kate and Clare were interviewed about their conservation work on Cain Slaying Abel by Matilda Battersby for the Independent newspaper and appeared on the paper’s website.
Current and Forthcoming Publications
Clare and Kate hope to publish their findings in both conservation and art historical journals in the near future.
CAROLINE VILLERS RESEARCH FELLOW 2009-2010
Rebecca Farbstein’s research uncovers and reconstructs the technologies used to make Upper Palaeolithic art (c. 40,000 to 10,000 years before present). During her fellowship, she focused on a collection of portable art from two major sites in the Ariège region of southwest France, which date to c. 13,500 years before present and are curated at the British Museum. She used her fellowship to refine a methodology she developed during her doctoral research. Farbstein’s approach, termed the chaîne opératoire, uses both macro- and microscopic analyses to identify the techniques, tools, and gestures used by prehistoric craftspeople as they transformed bone, antler, ivory and stone into representational and decorative art.
The art objects from the sites she studied depict a range of subjects, including animals, female figures, and non-figurative motifs. Many pieces of art from these sites are actually decorated tools such as spear-throwers or points embellished with engravings. Studying these assemblages allowed Farbstein to investigate decisions artists made and the gestures and techniques they employed to make artefacts where functional, technical and aesthetic preferences and considerations converge.
Because the sites she studied are both geographically adjacent and roughly contemporaneous, an evaluation of the preferred techniques and materials at each site allowed Farbstein to compare the art production traditions and technical innovations in two discrete but possibly related cultural contexts. For instance, artists used an innovative technique to create the illusion of low-relief when executing decorative cross-motifs in antler at one site, but this technique was not identified at the adjacent site. When techniques are limited in their geographic, material or aesthetic scope, this may suggest that some societies developed socio-technical norms for how and when techniques should be used. These norms and the associated technological knowledge may have helped demarcate social boundaries and may not have been widely shared. Farbstein’s research as Caroline Villers Research Fellow forms the foundation for additional research with her colleagues at the British Museum. She plans to compare the techniques she identified to those adopted by artists working at the same time period in the French Pyrenees. This research aims to use art to clarify the extent of interregional social relations during the late Palaeolithic.
Farbstein presented her research in an introductory lecture she gave at the Research Forum in October. In February 2010, she led students in the Conservation department in practical experiments in making reindeer antler into art using replica Palaeolithic stone tools. She led a similar session for the Sculptural Processes Group in March 2010 . She also enjoyed leading members of the Courtauld through the Palaeolithic galleries at the British Museum along with her colleague, Jill Cook. She will give a paper presenting some of the results of her research in August 2010 at the International Congress for Archaeozoologists in Paris.
Current and Forthcoming Publications
During her fellowship, two papers reporting results from previous and ongoing research were accepted for publication: ‘Technologies of Art: A Critical Reassessment of Pavlovian Art and Society Using Chaîne Opératoire Method and Theory.’ Current Anthropology (in press, 2010); and ‘The significance of social gestures and technologies of embellishment in Palaeolithic portable art.’ Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (2010). (DOI: 10.1007/s10816-010-9085-9).
Caroline Villers associate fellow 2009-2010
The trustees appointed Dr. Kathryn Rudy as Caroline Villers Associate Fellow to enable her to continue work on her project ‘Dirty Books’ (concerning the use and handling of books of hours and prayer books) within the context of the Courtauld research community.
Kathryn Rudy (Kate) earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Art History, and also holds a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the University of Toronto. She has held research, teaching, and curatorial positions in the US, UK, Canada, The Netherlands and Belgium. Kate specializes in late medieval manuscripts of the Low Countries. She has written articles about the manuscript precedents of Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs; the earliest visual interpretation of the Ghent Altarpiece; illustrated manuscripts for instructing children; words as devotional objects; as well as several articles about medieval pilgrimage both real and imagined, culminating in a book (forthcoming) titled Virtual Pilgrimages in the Convent: Imagining Jerusalem in the Late Middle Ages. Other recent work includes a long essay titled “How Nuns Invented the Postcard,” and an investigation of the manuscripts produced at the Franciscan Convent of St. Ursula in Delft. Her three long-term projects concentrate on the reception and original function of manuscripts: she has built a database to reconstruct fifteenth-century manuscripts whose prints have been cut out of them. She has compiled several thousand Middle Dutch rubrics that provide instructions for votaries in front of images for a book provisionally titled The Spiritual Economy of Images: The Performance of Prayer on the Eve of the Reformation in the Low Countries. Thirdly, she is completing a book called The Prayerbook as Talisman in Late Medieval Flanders. Kate will be a Fellow at Trinity College Dublin in autumn 2010, and takes up a position as lecturer in the History of Art at St Andrews in January 2011.
As the Caroline Villers Associate Fellow at the Courtauld she quantified grime and patterns of use in medieval manuscripts with the aid of a densitometer in a project called ‘Dirty Books’. She first developed this technique during her tenure as Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague. The project considered books of hours and prayer books, the largest surviving category of late medieval books, and asked how their original users handled them. Medieval readers often held their prayer books open by resting their thumbs at the lower corners of the opening but inadvertently deposited grime during handling. Quantifying the intensity of this grime can reveal users’ sentiments about the various texts and images in their books. During her fellowship she studied manuscripts at the British Library, the Victoria & Albert, the Guildhall Library, and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and she published the preliminary findings in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art. She is also a member of the current Courtauld Research Forum project ‘The material life o f things’.
“Dirty Books: Quantifying Patterns of Use in Medieval Manuscripts Using a Densitometer,” Research Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art, 20 January 2010
“Dirty Books,” Institut für Deutsche und Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin, 6 May 2010
Current and Forthcoming Publications:
Article in a peer-reviewed academic journal:
“Dirty Books: Quantifying Patterns of Use in Medieval Manuscripts Using a Densitometer,” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (www.jhna.org/) II (2010). [This is an article of 17,000 words and 78 figures, in which the principles of densitometry are laid out for the first time as a series of nine case studies.]
Articles in non-peer-reviewed museum publication:
“Dirty Books: Gebruikssporen in een middeleeuwse manuscript,” Catharijne (2010) [This is the magazine of the Museum Catharijneconvent, located in Utrecht. The article is in Dutch and addresses one of the manuscripts in this museum.]
“Measuring Medieval Dirt,” London Metropolitan Archives Newsletter, 2010
Caroline Villers research Fellow 2008-2009
Dr. Maria Kokkori is a research fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her research covers the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with special emphasis on the Russian avant-garde. She received her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2007 where her thesis focused on the examination of paintings by Kazimir Malevich, Ivan Kliun and Liubov Popova c.1905-1925. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute with a focus on Russian constructivist works by Aleksandr Rodchenko. During 2009-2011 she was a research fellow of the Malevich Society in New York. Her project investigated Kazimir Malevich's teaching activities at the Vitebsk Art School in Belarus between 1919 and 1923. She is the author of various articles on the art and design of Russian avant-garde artists. She is also a member of the advisory group of the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC).
Her fellowship project developed one area of study that emerged as significant from her PhD thesis with a focus on the technical examination of Aleksandr Rodchenko’s works. The research investigated the making of pictures, and his preferences for specific materials, brushwork and colour, in relation to the aesthetic and compositional results, together with consideration of the history and the critical perception of Rodchenko's paintings and the place of the examined paintings in the evolution of his work. Practices, themes, and attitudes were explored within the broader context of Russian constructivism. Dr. Kokkori examined works from the George Costakis collection and the Rodchenko and Stepanova Archives in Moscow and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The fellowship enabled Dr. Kokkori to establish working relationships with museums and archives in Europe, United States and Russia. She presented the results of her research at conferences and seminars in the UK and internationally. She prepared and published her findings in journal articles, reporting on the methodologies used in the project and on the initial results that both situate Russian avant-garde artists within, and contribute to, the growing body of research into the studio practice, materials and techniques in the first half of the 20th century in Russia.
Dr Kokkori lectured on her research to the Conservation and Technology Department in the Courtauld Institute and presented research methodologies and findings at the Research Forum in October 2008 and May 2009. The research informed her teaching on the MA course Contacts and Contexts in Russian Art, 1905-1945 at the Courtauld Institute.
On the occasion of the Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism exhibition at Tate Modern (February – May 2009), Dr Kokkori gave a lecture entitled “Russian Constructivism: Practice and Innovation in Liubov Popova and Aleksandr Rodchenko’s paintings” at the Tate Modern symposium in February 2009. She also co-organized a study day at the Tate Modern entitled “Constructivism and the art of everyday life” in March 2009. This study day explored the relationship between art and everyday life in post-war Russian constructivist art. Contributors investigated the languages of 'construction' and the move from abstraction in art to social forms in everyday life, architecture, theatre, product and graphic design. This event was a collaboration between Tate Modern, the Open University and the Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum.
Current and Forthcoming Publications
Tekhnologicheskie issledovaniia konstruktivistskoi zhivopisi G. Klutsisa, L. Popovoi, A. Rodchenko iz kollektsii G. Kostaki (Technical examination of constructivist works by Aleksandr Rodchenko, Gustav Klutsis and Liubov Popova from the George Costakis collection), Russkoe Isskustvo, Nauka: Moscow.
Black on black: Rodchenko’s experiments, Nashe Nasledie, Rossiiskii fond kul'tury: Moscow.
caroline Villers scholar 2008-2009
Exceptionally, the trustees appointed Dr. Stephen Hanley for one month as Caroline Villers Scholar to enable him to work with students in the Department of Conservation and Technology in connection with his study on artistic response and transmission in early Netherlandish paintings. Dr. Hanley read Fine Art and History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and received his PhD from the University of York in 2008 with a thesis entitled, ‘The Optical Concerns of Jan van Eyck’s Painting Practice’.
Dr. Hanley reports: The primary purpose of the fellowship I was awarded was to gain practical experience of technical study in order to facilitate my research into the role and definition of ‘emulation’ and ‘influence’ in Early Netherlandish painting. In October 2008, I participated in a series of workshops and lectures on ‘materials and techniques’ in the Department of Conservation and Technology. I made replicas of two paintings – one Italian and another Netherlandish – instructed by evidence from existing technical reports and historical treatises on painting. This exercise expanded in particular my understanding of the properties and characteristics of materials used by panel painters in the fifteenth century. During this time, I also took the opportunity to study the technical files relating to several early Netherlandish paintings in the Courtauld collection, such as the Entombment Triptych attributed to the Master of Flémalle.
In March 2009, I undertook, as part of a team, a full technical examination of a sixteenth-century Netherlandish portrait in the Courtauld collection which provided me the opportunity to gain practical experience of the core methods of technical investigation, including microscopy, sampling, infrared reflectography, x-radiography and ultraviolet examination. Using these techniques, the group was able to offer a number of new observations about the painting in its historical context. Perhaps most important among these was the remarkable discovery that the portrait was painted directly over an underdrawing, in an Antwerp Mannerist style, of a very detailed religious scene. This particular finding raises a number of important questions, concerning the attribution and status of the painting, which the team intends to pursue further in the coming months. Alongside the full examination of the sixteenth-century portrait, I was able to spend time looking at a number of paintings under the microscope, which allowed me to develop a range of observational and interpretative skills which are crucial to my interest in paint handling. In this respect, I was able to examine another portrait, attributed to the workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, before it left the collection on loan to exhibitions in Frankfurt and Berlin.
In addition to developing a more complex understanding of the analytical methods used to study the making of paintings, I also developed the means to identify and explain more precisely the various ways in which paintings change over time. The scholarship also enabled me to position the conceptual concerns of my research more fully in relation to the practical possibilities and limitations of technical study. Building on this experience, I am currently planning a project involving the technical study of several early Netherlandish paintings in collections in the U.K., Europe and the U.S.A.
Pascal Labreuche, Caroline Villers RESEARCH Fellow 2007-2008
Dr. Labreuche gave two papers in the Research Forum: an introductory lecture on his research plans, and a presentation of his findings at the end of his tenure. He also presented a paper at an international conference: 'The industrialisation of artists’ prepared canvas in 19th century Paris. Canvas and stretchers: technical developments up to the period of Impressionism', Cologne, International Symposium, Latest research into painting techniques of the Impressionists and Postimpressionists Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, 12, 13 and 14 June 2008. This paper was published in Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung. no 2, 2009, p. 316-328. Dr Labreuche has recently published the following papers: 'Scientifiques, artistes et fabricants parisiens (1795-1850). Des coopérations au service de l’École française de peinture', in Barbin, Évelyne et Le Nen, Dominique (dir.), Sciences et arts. Représentations du corps et matériaux de l’art, Paris, Vuibert, 2009, pp. 119-138; "India Rubber Painting Grounds in Britain and France in the Nineteenth Century", Studies in Conservation, vol. 56, n° 1, 2011, pp. 14-30; and a book:
Paris, capitale de la toile à peindre, xviiie-xixe siècle, preface by Jean-Pierre Babelon, Paris, CTHS/INHA, 2011 (coll. "L’art et l’essai", n° 9), 367 pages.
Dr. Labreuche gave two papers in the Research Forum: an introductory lecture on his research plans, and a presentation of his findings at the end of his tenure. He also presented a paper at an international conference: 'The industrialisation of artists’ prepared canvas in 19th century Paris. Canvas and stretchers: technical developments up to the period of Impressionism', Cologne, International Symposium, Latest research into painting techniques of the Impressionists and Postimpressionists Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, 12, 13 and 14 June 2008. This paper was published in Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung. no 2, 2009, p. 316-328. Dr Labreuche has recently published the following paper: 'Scientifiques, artistes et fabricants parisiens (1795-1850). Des coopérations au service de l’École française de peinture', in Barbin, Évelyne et Le Nen, Dominique (dir.), Sciences et arts. Représentations du corps et matériaux de l’art, Paris, Vuibert, 2009, pp. 119-138.
Dr Labreuche’s research report “Artists’ supports: the spread of devices, recipes and products in 19th-C France, England and the USA. A survey based on patents, trade mark registration, and other documents”, Caroline Villers Research Fellowship Report, 3 vols, 2008, is kept in the library of the Department of Conservation and Technology at the Courtauld Institute of Art: London. An updated and revised edition will shortly be available on line on the Courtauld Institute of Art website.
elisabeth Reissner, Caroline Villers research Fellow 2006-2007
Elisabeth Reissner took up a part-time post in the Conservation and Technology Department in October 2010. She teaches both practical conservation and object-based art history. She studied Art History at Manchester University and took the diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings at the Courtauld Institute in 1994. The aim of her project was the investigation of Cézanne’s materials and the way in which he used them to enquire into the nature of picture making and its relationship to the observed world. Her research focused upon the Courtauld’s nine oil paintings and five watercolours by Cézanne and a further eight Cézanne’s in the National Gallery, London collection. Close scrutiny of the paintings’ surfaces and technical study enabled a critical reading of the secondary accounts of Cézanne’s practice as well as his own theoretical statements. The fruits of this research, aided by an additional grant from the Caroline Villers Research Fellowship for a further three months of research and writing, contributed to the exhibition The Courtauld Cézannes, June to October 2008, including the catalogue essay 'Transparency of Means: ‘Drawing’ and Colour in Cézanne’s Watercolours and Oil Paintings in the Courtauld Gallery'. Her article 'Ways of Making: Practice and Innovation in Cézanne’s National Gallery Paintings' appears in the National Gallery Technical Bulletin Volume 29 and is dedicated to Caroline Villers. Elisabeth Reissner continued her association with the Courtauld Research Forum through her participation in the ‘Writing Art History’ project. She is currently working on a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, the broad aim of which is to explore the significance in attending to the articulation of pictorial and material means and of tracing an artist’s process of manufacture.
She has lectured on her research to the Conservation and Technology Department in the Courtauld Institute and spoke at a Cézanne Study day organised by the Gallery in September 2008. The research and exhibition informed her teaching on the undergraduate course in the History of Art and Materials that she taught at UCL in 2009-10 and will continue to provide a useful case study for the MA course Curating the Art Museum at the Courtauld Institute of Art to which she contributes.
Elisabeth gave a lecture entitled 'Image, Object, Archive.' at the 'Photographic Archives and the Photographic Memory of Art History' conference at the Courtauld Institute in June 2009. In October 2009 she presented a talk 'Cezanne: finding, not fixing, form in space.' to the Art History Department at the University of Warwick. In May 2011 Elisabeth was one of four former Caroline Villers Research Fellows who presented their research in the Courtauld Research Forum to mark the achievements of the fellowship.
Current and Forthcoming Publications:
For publications and online links from 2011 onwards see Elisabeth Reissner’s staff web page on this site.
Catalogue essay (see above) in The Courtauld Cezannes, edited by Stephanie Buck, John House, Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen and Barnaby Wright, published by The Courtauld Gallery in Association with Paul Holberton Publishing, London, 2008.
Article (see above) in the National Gallery Technical Bulletin Volume 29, series editor Ashok Roy, National Gallery Company Limited, Distributed by Yale University Press.