Art History in Conversation with Conservation: The Mysterious Case of David Bailly’s Portrait of a Painter with Vanity Symbols

Part of the research seminar series 'Conserving Histories of Art'

  • Datum: 15.11.2023
  • Uhrzeit: 17:00 - 18:30 (Rom UTC+01:00)
  • Vortragende(r): Karin Leonhard in conversation with Tilly Laaser
  • Ort: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rome and online
  • Kontakt:
Art History in Conversation with Conservation: The Mysterious Case of David Bailly’s <i>Portrait of a Painter with Vanity Symbols</i>
David Bailly’s Portrait of a Painter with Vanity Symbols, signed and dated 1651, has provided us with a rich history of interpretation. Despite scholars’ different approaches and theories, it is generally understood as a painted autobiography in which there has been sustained reflection on the relationship between visibility and invisibility, between figure and ground.

The years-long debate about the work and the uncertainties it presents prompted the Museum De Lakenhal to carry out further technical examination on the vanitas still life when it was on loan to the Rijksmuseum from 2016 to 2019. The results were recently presented in an exhibition on the artist’s life and work organized by the Museum de Lakenhal. Non-invasive imaging techniques such as Macro X-Ray Fluorescence scanning (MA-XRF) and Infrared Reflectography (IRR) were applied, unveiling changes that were hitherto unknown and which have the potential to reshape the current interpretations of Bailly’s intriguing composition. But are we getting any closer to an 'objective' interpretation of the painting, and is that even possible?

Karin Leonhard is Professor of Art History at the University of Konstanz. She was previously Professor of Art History at Bonn University, a Senior Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science as part of the research group ‘Art and Knowledge in pre-modern Europe’, and Assistant Professor at the Department of Art History, KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. Among her research interests is the dialog between art history, conservation and conservation sciences.

Tilly Laaser is Professor of Paintings Conservation at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences (TH Köln). She was previously a Research Assistant at the University of Konstanz, where she was the Scientific Coordinator of the research training group "Changing Frames: Art History and Art Technology in Exchange", a VolkswagenStiftung-funded graduate research program organized by the University of Konstanz and the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart (SABK).

Leonhard and Laaser have been working together in recent years in an effort to do research that bridges art history and conservation and to foster cooperative projects between conservators and art historians. As part of the “Changing Frames” project, they organized meetings between experts and authored numerous publications. Their volume Kunstgeschichte, Kunsttechnologie und Restaurierung: Neue Perspektiven der Zusammenarbeit: Eine Einführung / Art History, Conservation, and Conservation Science: New Perspectives for Cooperation, coedited with Aviva Burnstock, Tanja Klemm, Wibke Neugebauer and Anna von Reden is forthcoming with Reimer Verlag.

To join the seminar via Zoom, please click here. No password is required.

Scientific Organization: Lise Meitner Group “Decay, Loss, and Conservation in Art History”

Image: David Bailly, Portrait of a Painter with Vanity Symbols, 1651, Museum De Lakenhal

Zur Redakteursansicht