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Technology saving major works in National Gallery

Priceless art collection preserved for future through latest conservation methods.

RESTORATION OF PRICELESS artworks was, in the past, a case of cleaning up and making repairs.

A new informational exhibition from Ireland’s National Gallery will show how preserving great works of art is now a much more sophisticated procedure – with better results.

The National Gallery (NGI) on Clare Street in Dublin is putting three major artworks on special display from 18 January to show how technological advances has helped restore them to glory with minimum intervention.

The three paintings, pictured below, are The Assumption of the Magdalen (1380s) by Silvestro dei Gheraducci; Judith with the Head of Holofernes (c. 1550) by Lucas Cranach; and The Virgin with Child and Saints by Maestro del Tondo di Cortona (late 1400s).

Step-by-step photographs will show how the works were conserved.

So what happens to the works?

In the case of The Virgin with Child and Saints, for example, it’s pretty complicated – first old layers of discoloured varnish and old restorations had to be removed, pigments retouched and conservation materials applied to safeguard its future. There is more on the process here.

At the moment, the NGI is involved in a conservation project on one of its most high-profile items, Monet’s Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat. Around €7m of damage was caused to the painting in an attack on the work at the Gallery in 2012.

Another work to be restored in recent years is the iconic Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife (1854) by Daniel Maclise, one of the most popular Irish-inspired items in the NGI collection.

If you are fascinated by this kind of stuff, the Gallery does run internships in their conservation department – there are currently no vacancies but it’s worth keeping an eye on this site for future possibilities.

These are the paintings whose conservation will be detailed in the upcoming exhibition, which will run until the end of May:

Technology saving major works in National Gallery
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  • The Virgin with Child and Saints

    By Maestro del Tondo di Cortona (1450-1490).Source: © National Gallery of Ireland
  • The Assumption of the Magdalen

    Silvestro dei Gherarducci (1339-1399).Source: © National Gallery of Ireland
  • Judith with the head of Holofernes

    Lucas Cranach (1472-1553)Source: © National Gallery of Ireland

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