Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A good trick

I  love working with the curatorial fellows because, invariably, they have a knack for picking objects for their exhibitions that haven't been out on view in a long time. Curatorial fellow Sara Woodbury has chosen a some truly wonderful works for her exhibition on imagined worlds, How Extraordinary! Travel, Novelty, and Time in the Permanent Collection, opening in Webb Gallery June 16.  Sara was in the lab to look at one of these, and we both were so amazed by it, we thought we should share it here too.

Maker unknown, Trompe-l'oeil map, Collection of Shelburne Museum, 27.18-6
It is unknown who made this trompe-l'oeil arrangement of a map of North America written in French and other printed matter and objects. What's so amazing is that it was executed in ink using a pen with watercolor applied with a brush. There's no printing. The support, the material that the work was produced on, is a laid paper, but what look like indentations from a printing plate aren't. They were created with watercolor and a brush. We were examining the work to see if it made sense to treat it to reduce that yellow tonality. In fact, we discovered that the paper was toned to look old. Fake age!

A real red-rimmed paper label on the back of the framing indicates that the work is French and was made in 1779.  I'll leave you with some details and photo micrographs to enjoy, but this really needs to be seen to be believed.
The artist played with depicting the distortion caused by lenses in the lunettes.
At 60x magnification you get a better sense of the rendered optical distortion through the lens. The letters get bigger and the color changes.

A better look at those fictional plate marks.

The depicted plate mark flattens out under 60x magnification. Aren't those rose-head nails lovely?

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