This is the final post in the series of research reports on the enigmatic and controversial Judgment of Paris- apologies for the delay. The technical research is organized under various headings, some with sub-divisions.
|Judgment of Paris, att to Raphael, 1512, Private Collection, U.K.|
1. General introduction to technology used in scientific examination of Judgment of Paris
As this is a scientific report, and in order to establish the credentials of the author of the report, I think it’s only fair to introduce the post with a statement about Graeme Cameron’s professional background, and his expertise in the technical examination of paintings, which seems to have been questioned in some quarters. What follows is guided heavily by Graeme's scientific expertise, and is virtually verbatim. I don’t have anything like Graeme's technical expertise, just quietly added my voice at times, when I thought it appropriate.
Graeme Cameron’s Technical & Scientific Research Background
The scientific and technical investigative analysis of Old Master paintings in research projects, was an important specialty of the author’s multi-disciplinary background, complimenting his documentary and connoisseurship approach to the restitution of lost art works. This commenced in the United Kingdom in the late 1970’s, where he was much assisted in this area by the facilities of the University of London’s, noted Courtauld Institute, through the auspices of the leading British scholar, Mr. Christopher Wright FRS and by Sir Robert Bruce Gardner, the head of the institute’s Conservation Department.
Graeme Cameron also conducted additional independent scientific investigations using X-Radiography, infra-red, microscopy, macro photography and paint chip section analysis, etc. whilst in the United Kingdom over four years, which continues today.
As a consequence in the mid 1990’s, he was invited by Professor John Miller of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University’s Department of Physics, to perform a senior guest lecturing role in this specialist area of the sciences, conducting tutorials and subject exams in the methods and developing role of scientific techniques employed in today’s art research and attribution investigations.
He was earlier Conference Guest Speaker on this topic of “The Use of Scientific Techniques in Art Research”, at the International Conference of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in Sydney, Australia in the late 1990’s, by invitation of its Professor President.
Surface probing systems
Two scientific technologies were employed to analyse the painting’s sub surface, which revealed extensive compositional alterations, as noted in the volume, The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. 1.
These revealed not only the usual few “pentimenti”, but many major changes of Raphael’s created whilst refining his original concept of the legend. These findings eclipsed any that Cameron had witnessed over the past four decades conducting such investigative research. Such significant compositional changes confirmed the artist had used the sub surface of his composition as he would a sketching board. Only through technology can we now view his unique, multi- staged original creative development of this pivotal composition.
This extensive development of the composition from its initial concept, comes direct from the great artist’s mind, and is a rare event to witness in the field of Renaissance paintings research.
Infra-red Reflectography Scanning
In 2002, twelve detailed scans were undertaken at The University of Melbourne’s, technical analysis facility for art works, providing some remarkable findings of the painting’s sub surface, which first revealed this unique staged genesis of the composition.
|Both Infra-red and Vega Scans of sections, whole image showing the many significant head, garment and hand compositional changes.||Both infra-red and Vega Scans of Goddesses body sections.|
The most significant of these were the four major changes of both the position, dress and of the physiognomy of the face, of the seated figure of “Paris”. Likewise those of three significant changes to the dog’s position and other primary alterations were observed, including those to both of “Paris’s hands. See detailed discussion and other images of scans below.
Two infra-red sections of Goddess Body Sections.
VegaScan Deeper Sub surface Scanning
|VegaScan of pentimenti of 4 body position, dress and face changes to Raphael figure.|
A decade following the Infra-red reflectology scans, an advanced new scanning method developed by Cameron, the VegaScan system, was used to further reveal these known sub surface features, and search for further alterations.
Whilst the technology is still subject to proprietary restrictions, this adaptive scanning process, achieves the spectral sublimation of a primary image’s layers, by sequentially dissolving from the surface image, through its various constituent layers, to reveal its original deep sub surface base components. In simple terms, it is a technical way of peeling off the various upper layers of the paintng, (like an onion), to reveal the compostion’s deeper sub surface features.
These clearer scans further assisted the viewing and interpretation of the known major creative changes and importantly revealed that “Mercury”, in the top right corner, was originally lower and only one third of the size, than seen today on the finished surface.
|location of inverted modello.|
2. Condition of Painting.
Examination of craquelure reveals
|detail showing craquelure|
There is volume loss present, consistent with 16thC Renaissance works; there is also shrinkage, very fine rectangular 16thC cracquelure, again consistent with works from this period.Initial Glazing layers are the original layers.
In 1980, ultra violet testing in London likewise confirmed there has been no alterations or intrusions or retouching performed and that the time yellowed balsamic glazes exhibited the usual indications of the deep opaque green of original varnish.
It should also be noted that for approximately two centuries or possibly more, this painting remained fully protected behind a framed glass surround, quite rare method usually reserved for watercolours rather than protecting oil paintings. Thus the vanish darkening effects, especially of 19thC Victorian coal fuelled fires has been averted.
Ultraviolet test reveals
Additional to remarks on varnish. This examination confirmed a dense cloudy green layer of extremely aged varnish over the entire surface of the painting with just a few tiny incidental losses having earlier been inpainted. This affirmed the physical observation that the work’s final surface glazing(s) had experienced minimal past cleaning or other interference, and are remarkably close to their original status.
Giorgione/Titian, Concert Champetre, Louvre, 1508-9.
3. Pigment Analysis.
It is intended for gas chromatographic pigment analysis to be performed, as with the Holbein, however earlier attempts to have this arranged were unable to proceed due to prior commitments of the laboratory contacted. Initial microscopic visual analysis at 250x revealed crystalline structures of the pigments, consistent with those of other early 16thC works.
Lapis – not yet determined but is either this or Azurite.
Azurite – not yet determined but is either this or Lapis
Perhaps glass powder – It should be stated that glass powder appears restricted to Raphael’s earlier Florentine works, and it is recalled that Jill Dunkerton (of the scientific dept. at the NG) actually admitted it was not definitive, as both this pigment and Raphael’s base grounds were both widely variable.
Ridolofi’s citing is critically important as few paintings carry Ridolfi’s rare imprimatur and connoisseurship expertise. There is the other conjoint fact well worth citing that just as today in 2012 we can quite easily determine an 1850’s Victorian painting by its cracquelure and aged appearance, so in 1648 it would have been just as easy for Ridolfi to discern the painting had all the same age characteristics of a circa 1510 example.
Ridolfi, Title-page Le maraviglie dell’ Arte ovvero, Le vite degli Illustri Pittori Veneti and dello Stato, 1648.
Secondly, any advanced pigment testing would still only age the painting to around Ridolfi’s 1648 period and backwards, as the same pigments were used over that same 150 year period, and no test can yet differentiate within that one and a half century timeline. Therefore his unique visual 1648 on site evaluation is a more valid confirmation of this painting early 16thC dating, with the additional imprimatur of his acknowledged connoisseurship credentials of knowing many significant master’s paintings, and attesting to their primacy, even if he understandably gave this in Venice to Giorgione and not Raphael, for the earlier mentioned valid reasons.
4. Alterations and substitutions
Vega Scans revealing a “modello” of a Madonna. below, magnification of vega scans revealing different layers.
A fascinating additional subsurface feature of significance was also revealed during these investigations, which would further support Raphael’s authorship of the painting. This is a finely detailed Study, Modello colorito, albeit just 12cm sq. approx, in an inverted position at the end of the right goddesses robe, for a exquisite Madonna and Child composition. The Madonna has her hair half covered by a light headdress, with a trailing piece to the rear, and is garbed in a white blouse with ballooning shoulders, contrasted with darker armbands over the upper arms, (which from the density scale of its Infra-red colour values are most probably in red). Over this white blouse is a darker “V” necked tunic, (which due to its much darker colour value is probably in the blue range), with white ballooning sleeves at the Virgin’s wrists.
|magnification of Vegascan showing buried modello.|
She cradles the figure of the infant Christ against her right breast, but significantly, it can also be discerned that she is holding a small darker rectangular (Bible) book in her right hand, which she is reading from, perhaps whilst suckling the infant Christ. The composition has a distant city background with walled buildings, one larger one with a dome and tower with a spire, and also a broad sky. Her exposed left arm comes up under the infant’s right arm, whilst her Right hand is just visible above his left shoulder, holding the book. It appears this fully painted study was for an unrealised Madonna and Child project as it differs from any of Raphael’s known executed Madonnas.
Alba Madonna, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1509-10. Colonna Madonna, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, c. 1507.
Its existence on this work’s sub surface indicate it to be an original draft composition for a Madonna & Child subject from the period. Interestingly, under infra-red the inverted foreground robe reveals an underlying boat, scoop or cradle shape.
The under drawing is substantial and quite unprecedented in his oeuvre. This painting represents Raphael’s most innovative example in a ‘private work’ of the “Venetian oil on canvas alteration technique”, as demonstrated in Giorgione’s ‘The Tempest’, eg. where the focal nude figure was substantially shifted. In the Judgment of Paris composition, Raphael uses the original sub surface for both major compositional changes and minor figural improvements, as the concept is developed to its final surface appearance. He would have learned of these techniques from Marcantonio, who had worked with both Giorgione and Titian in Venice, and also from observing Piombo whilst working with him in the Farnesina Gallery.
Major Changes and their Implications.
There are three major alterations and substitutions that Raphael has made to the original conception that were initially revealed by Infra-red spectography carried out at the University of Melbourne’s, Ian Potter Centre for Art Research, by Mr. Sean Loughrey MA and later at the authors advanced scanning facility.
These alterations included:
|Vega scans. Section A shows four different face and position changes, as they advance from the tree. Section B shows the two upper and lower hand positions, and a forefinger extension.|
1. Changes to the ‘moment of Judgement’ of The Judgement of Paris episode, and consequential changes to the hands, both in their gesture and function, with substitutions of the Golden Apple award. The hand in the original hooded figure- see below for remarks on dress- was originally upturned and offering the Golden Apple seen within it, not pointing as in the last two versions. This means that in the so-called original “Shepherd” images, no “Apple” was in his lower clenched hand.
|Detail showing later Mercury departing after Paris’s decision.|
This reading is also supported by changes noted to the figure of Mercury who was originally conceived as a small, foreshortened figure in the sky, floating above the “Judgement” scene at right angles to the picture plane. Raphael subsequently deleted this figure, by the addition of a cloud, and substituted it with a far more significant and detailed Mercury figure, in a twisting pose, diagonal to the picture plane, departing the scene below. He looks back across his shoulder to the unfolding drama taking place below. Mercury’s role and depiction has therefore changed from one of observer of the contest, to that of bearer of the news of Paris’s final Judgement decision to Mount Olympus. This substitution also functions as a clever perspective device to accentuate the strong triangulation of the composition, to the sky, while assisting the painting’s three dimensionality and its depth, relative to the planar focal figures.
2. The most important change is one which completely revises the narrative from the classical interpretation of the legend, as in the later collaborative engraving by Marcantonio, (after the antique sculptural friezes), into an early 16thc Arcadian nude posie painting of love, in the contemporary Venetian manner. See post 3 of this series for a detailed discussion of this. This change transforms the painting’s concept from its traditional rendition, into the artist’s personal painting of love, and only known visual declaration of their joint devotion.
Sub-surface-see the above remarks on Ridolfi.
Age and date concordances scientifically confirmed dress by dendrochronology.
Raphael’s portrait. Physiognomic Age specific images. Raphael's countenance, which as proven by its subsurface pentimenti, was added into the composition to join that of Fornarina, and is also a unique portrayal, in that it is not a copy of any previously known image of him, either in its dress or "type", It too is an "Age and Date specific "original" portrait like Fornarina's of 1512. His physiognomy is consistent with that of "Stanza" version, with the garb datable to this period, however he is clearly younger and in better health than seen in the 1519 joint portrait. None of these could be claimed as "chance" likenesses but were purpose created portraits for this painting.
|Faces of Raphael. Stanza self-portrait (1509-10); Judgment self-portrait (1512); self-portrait with a Friend, (1518)|
Fornarina’s portrait. The Fornarina is clearly a more naive and youthful portrayal than any previously known image of her and is therefore neither a copy nor any "chance resemblance", but a unique visage of her in 1512. It is self evidently an "Age and Date” specific portrait, which most accurately records her actual physiognomy at that time, which may well include her naked countenance, from this original sitting.Accurate portraits are difficult enough to create, yet both these are finely wrought, true to life renditions and dateable to Rome in 1512.It is his first portrayal of the young Fornarina’s portrait image in Rome, completed in the year 1512, but probably commenced in 1511.
|Faces of Fornarina. Judgment (1512); Sistine Madonna (1513); “La Donna Velata” (1516).|
Raphael’s body type; concordant facial Comparisons.
Ears and feet; physiological concordances.
Similarities with Raphael’s exhumed skull and consequently proposed facial features; the ear of Venus is comparable with Raphaels other contemporary portrayal of ears The very distinctive “Raphaelesque Feet’ are quite comparable with his other portrayals and show a remarkable concordance.
Crainiometric comparison and forensic analysis is hoped to be undertaken at a future time to compare the now established visual concordances. Readers might like to know that interest in Raphael’s skull dates back to the early modern period. What was thought to be Raphael’s skull was adorned with laurels by the Accademia di San Luca, but subsequent investigations revealed it to be that of a sixteenth-century canon at the Pantheon. The search for Raphael’s bones reflected a period interested in the science of craniology and craniometry, a story that David Allan Brown and Jane van Nimmen tell in their book on The Bindo Altoviti portrait, once thought to be a self-portrait, but now known to be a portrait of the renaissance banker.
|Detail of Judgment and Portrait of Agnolo Doni, 1506, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence.|
It would appear that through his contact with Leonardo during his formative years, Raphael became familiar with Da Vinci’s monogramme signing traits. Some of these are present in the Malmesbury Judgment of Paris. They are manifested as signature devices, being multiple monogrammes and dates for the year 1512. A 1512 date is inscribed within the fabric headband of the central goddess, a method that Raphael is known to have used in another work.
|As per GC’s book.|
A further group of both 1512 date and monogramme is set within the Golden Apple. Two other “Rv” monogrammes are on the upper chest and within the crotch area of both goddesses, a cogent example of Raphael’s known approach, to his personal relationships as the “lothario” lover.
There appears a just decipherable “R” monogramme or character on the collar of the dog at Paris’s side, along with other “meaningless” decorative inscriptions, (Gould), or perhaps (Cufic) writing as discussed in Rona Goffen’s 2003, “Designer Labels article. It is noted that Raphael’s earlier St George panel (1505), has an inscription on the horse’s bridle.
8. Future technical analysis
It is intended that further X-Radiographic, Spectrographic Pigment Sampling, Macro Surface Studies, and other relevant examinations be undertaken in the near future, to provide additional scientific corroboration to the definitive findings already established from the above examinations.
Canvas support analysis – Future testing handy – but likewise not really definitive. Also needs 1510 comparisons and other museum results support, which is never forthcoming and usually denied.
9. Finishing Up
Just as a painting is never really finished- you can always come back to it and re-touch it, or re-view it in the light of something new, so this debate is likely to go on. Though this series is officially finished, there will be a unstructured catch-all summary post in which issues raised can be re-visited and elaborated upon. I know that Graeme Cameron wants to amplify certain points. Likewise, readers of this blog are invited to supply material for this round-up post; if you want to raise anything, offer an insight, a criticism, or anything that occurs to you after reading this or all the posts in this series, then contact AHT via e.mail or leave a comment here and I’ll integrate it into the post.
David Brown & Jane Van Nimmen, Raphael & the Beautiful Banker : the story of the Bindo Altoviti portrait, New Heaven [Conn.] ; London : Yale University Press, c2005.
Graeme Cameron, The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. 1, VegaScan, 2011.
Rona Goffen, Raphael’s Designer Labels : From the Virgin Mary to La Fornarina, Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 24, No. 48. (2003), pp. 123-142.
Cecil Gould, Raphael versus Giulio Romano : The Swing Back, The Burlington Magazine , Vol. 124, No. 953. (Aug., 1982), pp. 479-485+487.
Paul Joannides, Titian to 1518: The Assumption of Genius, Yale University Press, 2002.
Carlo Ridolfi, Le maraviglie dell’ Arte ovvero, Le vite degli Illustri Pittori Veneti and dello Stato, 1648.
Patricia Rubin, Signposts of Invention : Artists’ Signatures in Italian Renaissance Art, Art History 29 (4), 563-599.
Dr G Wagen,Treasures of Art in Great Britain, John Murray London (1854) pp. 416.