Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Rembrandt’s Night Watch to be restored in public view

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Like it’s not enough that to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death in 2019 the Rijksmuseum will be putting on an epic exhibition displaying every one of his paintings, drawings and prints in its permanent collection, the museum will also undertake its most ambitious conservation project ever: the full restoration of The Night Watch in public view.

The Night Watch last received extensive treatment in 1975 after a deranged former teacher slashed it with a bread knife he’d stolen from the restaurant where he had lunch that day. He explained to the security guards and bystanders who pried him off the masterpiece and restrained him that he had been ordered by God to slash the painting. That was an emergency salvage operation to repair the severe cuts in the canvas, some more than two feet long and one whole chunk cut out that was a foot wide and 2.5 inches wide.

The new restoration is occasioned by the regular monitoring of its condition. Conservators have begun to see alarming changes taking place gradually but surely. The little dog in the lower right of the canvas, for example, is getting whiter and whiter. He’s basically a ghost dog at this point. The first step is a complete examination and assessment of the entirety of the painting. Several imaging techniques, high-resolution photography, microscopic analysis and computer tools will be used to create a detailed map of the artwork at every level, from stretcher to canvas through paint layers to varnish.

The timing of the project is ideal from the standpoint of conservatorial expertise as well. Rijksmuseum experts complete the thorough restoration of the portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit last year, so they have fresh experience in conserving large-scale Rembrandts. The team that will work on The Night Watch will include experts from other museums and institutions of higher education around the world.

But wait, there’s more!

The Night Watch will be encased in a state-of-the-art clear glass chamber designed by the French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte. This will ensure that the painting can remain on display for museum visitors. A digital platform will allow viewers from all over the world to follow the entire process online continuing the Rijksmuseum innovation in the digital field.

Taco Dibbits, General Director Rijksmuseum: “The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It belongs to us all, and that is why we have decided to conduct the restoration within the museum itself – and everyone, wherever they are, will be able to follow the process online.”

I would like to take a moment to thank The Netherlands for being awesome. Their museums’ websites consistently provide the highest resolution images possible and have been doing so since cribbing off your office T1 lines was the only hope a regular person had of downloading such pictures in less than five hours. They do world-class renovations of the historic buildings the museums inhabit, generously loan out incredibly rare masterpieces to museums around the world while the spaces are being refurbished and then make the greatest of all promotional videos to celebrate the grand reopening.

The exhibition, All the Rembrandts of the Rijksmuseum, runs from February 15th to 10 June 10th, 2019. This will be the first time in history that the more than 400 artworks by Rembrandt in the Rijskmuseum’s collection will be on display at once.

Because I never need a pretext to repost it and this time I actually have one, here’s the greatest of all promotional videos:

Share

Titian’s Crucifixion torn in a fall

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

A painting of the Crucifixion by Old Master Titian was seriously damaged in a fall at the 16th century royal complex of El Escorial near Madrid in central Spain. The 8 x 4.5-foot oil-on-canvas Christ Crucified was discovered by security personnel around 10:00 AM on Wednesday, October 3rd, in the sacristy of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. It had become detached from the wall and struck the 16th/17th century furniture underneath it before bouncing onto the marble floor. The accident caused a considerable horizontal 7-shaped tear in the canvas across the lower portion of the painting.

Experts from Spain’s National Patrimony, the public institution responsible for the management of property of the State that was formerly property of the Crown, were immediately dispatched to examine the masterpiece, assess its condition, come up with a repair plan and determine if possible the cause of the fall. They found that detachment was likely caused by the degradation of the plaster layer on the wall to which the painting had been anchored. Over the years the plaster that held the nails of the mount had gradually crumbled without anybody realizing what was happening. The tipping point came the night of October 2/3 and down came the painting.

Officials are quick to reassure that the figure of Christ himself was not torn. The entire pictorial layer appears to have been spare from any paint loss. The work has been protectively wrapped and packaged for transport to the central National Patrimony workshop in Madrid. There it will be analyzed thoroughly, treated and repaired to ensure its stability. When the restoration is done, the painting will be returned to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo, presumably, one hopes, in a new location.

Crucified Christ entered the Escorial collection in 1574, added by King Philip II who was an unabashed Titian fan and commissioned almost all of Titian’s outlay in the last 25 years of his life (from 1550 until his death in 1576). It’s not known exactly when Titian painted it. Stylistically it dates to the beginning of his late period characterized by experimentation with daring chiaroscuro night scenes and flesh tones, probably around 1555. It was already on its way to Philip II in 1556.

Share

Public conservation of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy begins

Monday, October 8th, 2018

The carefully planned conservation of Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy has begun at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On Sept. 22, 2018, a temporary conservation studio opened under the spot in the grand portrait gallery where the iconic painting usually hangs.

The Blue Boy requires conservation to address both structural and visual concerns. “Earlier conservation treatments mainly have involved adding new layers of varnish as temporary solutions to keep it on view as much as possible,” said Christina O’Connell, The Huntington’s senior paintings conservator working on the painting and co-curator of the exhibition. “The original colors now appear hazy and dull, and many of the details are obscured.” According to O’Connell, there are also several areas where the paint is beginning to lift and flake, making the work vulnerable to paint loss and permanent damage; and the adhesion between the painting and its lining is separating, meaning it does not have adequate support for long-term display.

During three months of preliminary analysis—which was carried out by conservators in 2017, with results reviewed by curators—the painting was examined and documented using a range of imaging techniques that allow O’Connell and Melinda McCurdy, The Huntington’s associate curator for British art and co-curator of the exhibition, to see beyond the surface with wavelengths the human eye can’t see. Infrared reflectography rendered some paints transparent, making it possible to see preparatory lines or changes the artist made. Ultraviolet illumination made it possible to examine and document the previous layers of varnish and old overpaints. New images of the back of the painting were taken to document what appears to be an original stretcher (the wooden support to which the canvas is fastened) as well as old labels and inscriptions that tell more of the painting’s story. And, minute samples from the 2017 technical study and from previous analysis by experts were studied at high magnification (200-400x) with techniques including scanning electron microscopy with which conservators could scrutinize specific layers and pigments within the paint. Armed with information gathered from the 2017 analysis, the co-curators mapped out a course of action for treating the painting and developed a series of questions for which they are eager to find answers. Funding for the restoration and conservation work was made possible through a grant from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Program.

Visitors to The Huntington will see Blue Boy in various stages of treatment. The painting will be laid out on the table when conservators stabilize areas of flaking paint. They will use a surgical microscope to view the paint in high magnification. The microscope will be connected to a display screen so visitors can see the surface of the painting in microscopic detail along with the conservators. It was also be placed on an easel when the many layers of discolored varnishes, which alter not just the original colors but also the spatial relationships of the composition, are removed.

During the imaging research done in preparation for this year-long treatment project, Blue Boy X-rays and infrared reflectography. They revealed the head of a gentleman (at the Boy’s right elbow) and a fluffy white dog (at the boy’s right side) Gainsborough painted over and an 11-inch-long L-shaped tear in the canvas (at the boy’s left shin). The figures had been seen in earlier radiographs. (The portrait wasn’t a commission so Gainsborough simply took a used canvas he had lying around, cut it down, restretched it and painted the young man who would make his reputation.) The tear, however, was a new discovery.

Conservators hope that once they get under the layers of overpaint and varnish to Gainsborough’s original brushstrokes, they’ll find out more about his approach, about when the portrait was painted, when the tear appeared in the canvas, and maybe, just maybe, establish definitely the identity of the sitter.

Share

Rape confession found in 17th c. sailor’s journal

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

The restoration of a 17th century sailor’s journal in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has revealed a baldly-stated confession of rape that was obscured for centuries in a literal cover-up. The journal was written by one Edward Barlow documenting his four-decade career from 1659 and 1703. He started as an 18-year-old apprentice aboard The Naseby, the flagship of Edward Montagu which brought King Charles II back to England at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Over the forty-plus years of his career, he sailed on navy and merchant ships, participated in several naval battles and was taken prisoner. He detailed all these experiences in his journal. A gifted artist, Barlow illustrated his diary with images of the ships he served on, battles he fought and maps of his journeys.

Very little is known about Edward Barlow beyond the contents of his journal. Not even the National Maritime Museum has been able to trace the full history of the document. The museum received it from Basil Lubbock, a naval historian, sailor and failed prospector in not one but two gold rushes (Klondike, 1896, California, 1898). He had bought it from Charles Alexander Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, descendant of Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke, Vice-Admiral of the White. There were no records of how the journal had wound up in the Yorke library. Lubbock thought it likely that some descendant of Edward’s sold the manuscript to Sir Joseph as there were people named Barlow in Hampshire at that time.

Botched repairs over the years had left the journal in dire need of conservation. Its condition issues have been a long-standing concern — senior paper conservator Paul Cook was told when he was hired at the museum in 1985 that the diary was “a problem” — and the painstaking process of restoration has been ongoing for nine years. It was Cook who saw that a page had been very carefully pasted over the original. The cover-up was so expertly performed that nobody had noticed for more than 300 years.

He originally wrote an excruciatingly frank account of his rape of Mary Symons, a young female servant in a house where he was lodging, an encounter he admitted was “much against her will, for indeed she was asleep but being gotten into the bed I could not easily be persuaded out again, and I confess that I did more than what was lawful or civil, but not in that manner that I could ever judge or, in the least, think that she should prove with child, for I take God to witness I did not enter her body, all though I did attempt something in that nature”.

Barlow inserted a line of warning: “I found by her that women’s wombs are of an attractive quality and dangerous for a young man to meddle with.”

He continued that though he wrote “a loving letter”, he wanted to “forget her and blot her out of my remembrance … as I had done with some before”. However, when his ship returned to England from Jamaica, he agreed to meet Symons and found her “weeping most pitifully and saying she was undone”.

Against the advice of friends urging him that he had a good chance of finding a rich wife, Barlow married her in Deal, “a very decent marriage where we had several people of good repute”. The union celebrated with a two-day party that cost him £10.

Their child was stillborn while Barlow was at sea, but they went on to have several more children and, despite initial doubts, he heaped praise on his wife: “Had I searched England over for a mate I could not have met with one more obliging and ready to do any thing that should give me content.”[…]

Cook became the first person in more than 300 years to read Barlow’s original words, hidden under the rewritten version, which included the weeping woman on the shore but omitted the account of the rape. Instead, Barlow wrote: “I had in part promised her at London that I would marry her … having had a little more than ordinary familiarity with her”.

Scholars think that he probably returned from a sea voyage and thought better of his honesty about the brutal origin of what appeared to have developed into a relatively happy marriage.

Share

Is Lincoln’s iconic stovepipe hat really Lincoln’s?

Friday, September 21st, 2018

The most prized possession of many important artifacts in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Illinois, is a stovepipe hat belonging to the president. The hat appears to have an impeccable provenance. Lincoln bought the beaver-fur stovepipe hat from a shop in Springfield in the mid-1850s, a period when he was active in state politics while aiming for national office, loudly voicing his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and transitioning from the dying Whig party to the Republican party. He paid $4.00 for it.

Lincoln’s tall stovepipe hat is so strongly associated with him that the outline alone is an iconic representation of the slain president. It was a deliberate choice of Abraham Lincoln’s to wear an extra tall chapeau to emphasize his atypical height. He was 6’4″ in an era when the average height for an adult male was 5’7″ and the hat is seven inches high. That made him just shy of seven feet tall when he wore it, a veritable giant even today.

Only three of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats are known to survive and the Springfield museum’s beaver hat is believed to be the oldest. The only problem is there is no hard evidence that the hat really did belong to Abraham Lincoln. The museum acquired it at auction in 2007. It was one of 1,600 Lincoln-related artifacts from collector Louise Taper that were bought for $25 million. The hat alone cost $6.5 million.

You’d think at those nosebleed prices the non-profit Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation (ALPLF) would investigate thoroughly before going deep into debt to buy the collection. Louise Taper was on the board of the foundation in 2007. That may or may not have played a part in the acquisition. She isn’t talking and neither is the foundation.

Since the hat entered the museum collection, the story told was that Lincoln had given the hat as a thank-you gift to an Illinois farmer in 1858. A descendant of the farmer signed an affidavit in 1958 confirming the gift, only she said Lincoln had given it to him during the farmer’s visit to Washington after 1861. The person who appraised the hat for millions of dollars did no personal research, relying solely on a report of research done by the foundation, a report that is nowhere to be found today.

In 2013, experts at the Smithsonian and Chicago History Museum reported that there was simply insufficient evidence to claim it as Lincoln’s hat. The affidavit is basically all they have to go on, and it contradicts the museum’s own statements. Without documentation of the hat having belonged to Lincoln, the museum should strongly qualify its claim that it was Lincoln’s stovepipe hat, the report concluded.

With $9.7 million still outstanding on the sale price and much fundraising needed to pay it off, in 2017 the ALPLF secretly asked the FBI to DNA-test residue on the hat in the hopes it might confirm conclusively that it once had topped Abraham Lincoln’s noggin. The conclusion was … inconclusive. No period DNA could be recovered, only contemporary DNA from someone who had handled it in comparatively recent years.

The hat may not have recoverable DNA, but it does bear some evidence of its wearer. It bears the mark of a hatmaker who was working in Springfield in the mid-1850s. It is Lincoln’s hat size. The band is stretched out from having had important papers stuffed inside of it, a practice Lincoln was known to indulge in. The are wear marks from two fingers on the brim, indicating that it was worn regularly by one individual for a very long time.

Museum chief Alan Lowe expressed frustration over the foundation’s secrecy, but downplayed the DNA test results, saying it would be hard to get a perfect match from an 180-year-old item handled by many people.

“It is important to understand that neither of these initiatives produced new evidence about the hat’s origins,” Lowe said in a statement.

Thanks to the publicity, the museum will begin a new search for evidence about the hat’s past, he added.

“What we learn, no matter what it says about the hat’s origins, will be shared with the public.”

Meanwhile, the pride and joy of the museum has been removed from public display. Once the research is done, the museum will decide whether the hat goes back on display at Lincoln’s lid or remains in the shadows as a $6.5 million pig in a poke.

Share

Dorothy’s lost ruby slippers go home

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

One of four surviving pairs of the iconic Ruby Red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz have been found 13 years after they were stolen from The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

The museum occupies the house where Judy Garland was born and lived until she was four. It was fully restored before the museum opened in 1975 and today boasts the world’s largest collection of Judy Garland memorabilia with a particular focus on Wizard of Oz memorabilia. The ruby slippers were loaned to the museum by collector Michael Shaw. The museum wanted to put the shoes in the safe every night, but Shaw refused. The slippers were too fragile to be handled by anyone other than himself, he believed, so he put the slippers in a Plexiglass case on a podium 15 feet from a window.

It was a daring crime. In the wee hours of August 28th, 2005, a person or persons unknown smashed open the window with a baseball bat, smashed the Plexiglass display and made off with the slippers. The entire break-in, robbery and escape took less than a minute. The alarm never went off and the security cameras were not functioning. No fingerprints were left behind. The only clue, if you can call it that, was a single red sequin that had fallen off the shoes during the robbery.

The community, which takes great pride in the town’s claim to fame as Judy Garland’s birthplace, was shocked by the brazen heist. Rumors circulated that it was the boldly stupid act of teenagers on a dare, that the shoes were hidden away in a cellar, that they’d been thrown down one of the area’s empty mine pits.

Hoping that the thieves would willingly return the slippers in exchange for cash, the museum offered a $250,000 reward. There were no takers. Over the years the rumors proliferated. In 2011, police searched the home of a San Diego collector. In 2015, Scuba divers explored the Tioga Mine Pit and came up empty. That same year a Wizard of Oz superfan offered a $1,000,000 reward for anyone who could identify the thief and the location of the slippers. Again, there were no takers, although plenty of people from psychics to frauds to weirdos tried to claim the reward with an avalanche of cockamamie stories.

The police continued to investigate, hoping that the wild goose chases would at least keep the real perpetrators from thinking the authorities were on their tails. Last year, there was finally a break in the case.

The FBI said a man approached the insurer in summer 2017 and said he could help get them back. Grand Rapids police asked for the FBI’s help and after a nearly year-long investigation, the slippers were recovered in July during a sting operation in Minneapolis.

The FBI said no one has yet been arrested or charged in the case, but they have “multiple suspects” and continue to investigate. As they unveiled the recovered slippers at a news conference Tuesday, they asked anyone with information about the theft to contact them.

“We’re not done. We have a lot of work to do,” Christopher Myers, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said.

Share

Massive fire strikes National Museum of Brazil

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

The National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro was struck by a massive fire today and it shows no signs of abating. Founded in 1818, the museum moved into the former residence of the Portuguese royal family in 1889. Every floor of the historic building is completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters are still struggling to get it under control now before it reaches a storage area that contains chemicals. There are no reports of any injuries (or worse) so far. The fire broke out around 7:30 PM after the museum had closed for the day, so all the visitors were gone and hopefully the employees were as well.

The museum is one of the oldest and largest in the Americas and has a vast collection of more than 20 million artifacts, including the oldest human remains ever discovered in Brazil, the 12,000-year-old skeleton of an adult woman known as Luzia. It also houses an internationally important library with more than 470,000 works, 2,400 of them extremely rare.

Brazil’s President Michel Temer released a heartbreaking statement: “It is incalculable for Brazil to lose the collection of the National Museum. Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge were lost. It is a sad day for all Brazilians.”

And for the world. :cry:

Share

Gold horse head shines on public display

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

The gilded bronze horse head from a 1st century equestrian statue found in Waldgirmes, central Germany, is going on public display for the first time since it was unearthed in 2009. It’s been through a lot in its 2000 years, first getting dismembered by Germanic tribesmen making a point about the transitory nature of imperial power in the wake of their annihilation of Rome’s legions at the Battle of Teutoborg Forest, then getting thrown in a deep well, then getting dug up by archaeologists, then spending years undergoing painstaking conservation while the owner of the land where it was found took the state of Hesse to court to geometrically expand his compensation.

When I posted last month about the outcome of the trial (the court sided with the landowner), there were no recent photos of the horse’s head so I had to grudgingly make do with one taken in 2010 in the early stages of conservation. Very grudgingly. Most extremely grudgingly. All that gnashing of teeth can now be forgotten because Hesse has finally put the horse head on public display. The new exhibition opens Sunday and was previewed for the press on Friday. That means those of us not afforded the opportunity to see the gloriously golden equine in person benefit from the release of new photographs of it on display.

The Saalburg Roman Fort museum is the lucky recipient of the refreshed head. Built in the early 2nd century A.D. under the reign of the Emperor Trajan, the fort overlooking the Limes (the frontier of the Roman Empire) did sentry duty for 150 years before the frontier got too hot and the troops were withdrawn. The ruins of the Saalburg were rediscovered and excavated in the mid-19th century. Between 1897 and 1907, the fort was reconstructed by order of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It became an open-air museum and research facility surrounded by the remains of the Roman settlement which was also partially reconstructed. Today it is the only museum in Hesse that is entirely dedicated to the area’s Roman history.

Saalburg’s permanent exhibition has been updated and redesigned over the past few years, and the Waldgirmes head will be its centerpiece. The museum has created a wall-height poster depicting the original size of the full statue. The head alone is two feet long and weighs 33 pounds, so the statue was an impressive sight when it was intact. Another large panel explains how the horse head was excavated from a wooden barrel at the bottom of well shaft 36 feet deep.

That was just the beginning of the hard work. While the waterlogged anaerobic environment preserved the gilded bronze head, it did have some thorny condition issues mostly posed by the nature of gilding itself. The corrosion of the bronze manifested on the gold surface which, as on any gilded object, is extremely thin. Conservators struggled to remove those corrosion products without also removing precious gold. Patches of acrylic resin were applied to strengthen a few areas and then the entire piece was given a coating of resin for its protection. The conservation team made a conscious choice not to re-gild areas of loss.

Hesse’s Science and Arts Minister Boris Rhein showered the conservators with praise at the press preview of the exhibition, noting that their precision work allows us to see the exquisitely life-like details captured by the sculptor. The anatomy of the horse — muscles, veins, nostrils, teeth, eyes — is crafted with a verisimilitude only a highly skilled craftsman and artist could achieve.

Share

British Museum uncovers origin of looted objects, returns them to Iraq

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Researchers at the British Museum solved a mystery both ancient and modern when they discovered the origin site of eight artifacts looted from Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Thanks to their efforts, the objects are now on their way back to Iraq.

The orphaned artifacts were in custody of the British Museum after having been seized in a police raid on a London antiquities dealer in May 2003. The dealer had no proof of ownership — I guess he hadn’t gotten around to forging a “Swiss private collection” document yet — or any other documentation about the artifacts, so they were confiscated by the authorities and were in storage for almost 15 years.

The cold case was heated up when the Metropolitan Police reformed its art and antiquities squad. The squad gave the objects to the British Museum this year in the hope that its experts might be able to figure out where the pieces came from so they could be repatriated. As it turned out, the British Museum was uniquely well-positioned to uncover the truth about these objects.

The eight artifacts consist of three fired clay cones with Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions, a fragment of a white gypsum mace-head inscribed in Sumerian, a polished river pebble with a cuneiform inscription in Sumerian, one red marble and one white marble stamp-seal amulet from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3000 B.C.) in the form of a reclining sheep and one banded white chalcedony seal of a reclining sphinx from the Achaemenid period.

It was the three cones that gave the British Museum the information they needed to pinpoint the origin site. The all bore the identical Sumerian inscription, one that is also know from other inscribed ancient artifacts. It reads: “For Ningirsu, Enlil’s mighty warrior, Gudea, ruler of Lagash, made things function as they should (and) he built and restored for him his Eninnu, the White Thunderbird.” This inscription identified the cones as coming from the archaeological city of Girsu (modern-day Tello) in southern Iraq where the Eninnu temple once stood. The temple was sacred Eninnu’s patron god Ningirsu.

The great temple complex is in the Tell A area of Tello where ongoing excavations have found artifacts and remains elucidating the plan, size and design of the temple. Archaeologists from the British Museum have been excavating Tell A since 2016 as part of the Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme, a program set up in response to the IS destruction of cultural patrimony that trains staff from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in the latest techniques of rescue archaeology. The initial survey of Tello in 2015 and 2016 found dozens of looter pits. They were shallow and appear to have been targeted, small-scale efforts probably done at night by a few individuals rather than the massive looting operations that ran roughshod over Iraq’s ancient sites in 2003.

The British Museum team at Tello found broken cones identical to those seized in London. Their shape was an imitation of tent pegs and they were originally placed in holes in the temple wall, offerings to the Sumerian Thunderbird, the lion-headed god who roared thunder and flashed lightning bolts from his body. That’s how the researchers were able to discover not just the site where the objects had been looted from, but the actual wall they had been inserted in originally.

On Friday, August 10th, the artifacts were officially returned to the Iraqi ambassador Salih Husain Ali in a ceremony at the British Museum.

Iraqi ambassador Salih Husain Ali … said the protection of antiquities was an international responsibility and praised the British Museum and its staff “for their exceptional efforts in the process of identifying and returning looted antiquities to Iraq. Such collaboration between Iraq and the United Kingdom is vital for the preservation of Iraqi heritage.”

St John Simpson, the assistant keeper at the Middle East department of the museum, said: “Uniquely we could trace them not just to the site but to within inches of where they were stolen from. This is a very happy outcome, nothing like this has happened for a very, very long time if ever.”

They will be returned to the national museum in Baghdad and reunited with many objects from the recent excavations, and may eventually be loaned to a museum near the site.

Share

Third Lod mosaic found during construction of Lod mosaic museum

Monday, August 6th, 2018

The construction of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center, a permanent home for one the largest and most intact (not to mention one of the most beautiful) Roman mosaic floors ever discovered, has resulted in the discovery of yet another exceptional mosaic floor. Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists unearthed the colorful depiction of fish, birds and plants in just one month of work.

This is the third one found at the site where the first mosaic floor was found in 1996. The second was discovered in late 2014. This embarrassment of archaeological and artistic riches was once part of a large luxury home dating to the early 4th century A.D. in the ancient city of Lydda which under the Roman Empire was a district capital and important center of trade. The first and largest mosaic covered the floor of the main reception room/triclinium. The second adorned an internal courtyard. The newly-discovered mosaic covered the floor of another smaller reception room/triclinium next to the one where the largest and first mosaic was found.

“The archaeological excavation that we carried out this month was relatively small, but contributed significantly to our understanding of the villa building,” said [excavation director Dr. Amir] Gorzalczany. “Thankfully, the main central panel of the mosaic was preserved. The figures, many similar to the figures in the earlier mosaics, comprise fish and winged creatures. A fairly similar mosaic was found in the past in Jerusalem, on the Mount Zion slopes. The Lod mosaics, however, do not depict any human figures that are present in the Mount Zion mosaic. It is quite probable that the same artist produced both mosaics, or that two artists worked from a similar design.”

“This type of mosaic is better known in the Western part of the Roman Empire,” Gorzalczany explained. “Also noteworthy are the rectangular marks that may denote the placing of the couches on which the participants of the banquet or feast reclined. These marks are common in similar villas and are an indication of the use of the space in the reception halls.”

One corner of the mosaic was first spotted by archaeologists in 2014 at the time the second mosaic was discovered. Except for that one corner, the rest of the space was underneath a neighborhood parking lot and as the residents were none too keen to lose their handy spots, it took years of discussions before the mosaic could be excavated. Once the team was given the go-ahead, they had a brief window to excavate and salvage whatever they found before the property was returned to the residents.

When the new Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center opens, the first two mosaics will be displayed in situ exactly where they were found. This third one will also be on display, but not in its original location.

In this video you can see experts from the IAA salvage the mosaic, rolling it up like a carpet.

Share

Navigation

Search

Archives

October 2018
S M T W T F S
« Sep    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Other

Add to Technorati Favorites

Syndication