Conserve to Preserve

Author: Ann WagnerFiled under: Collection, Exhibitions, MuseumLeave a Comment

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Two beautiful views of 18th century Venice by Michele Marieschi have long been in the vaults of the Arkansas Arts Center, unable to be displayed because dirt and an old, darkened layer of the protective coating called varnish obscured the works’ colors and details.

Chief Curator Brian J. Lang decided it was time to remedy the situation. He turned to the Arkansas art conservation firm Norton Arts to clean and repair the two oil paintings. Art conservation is demanding process that must be undertaken only by experienced professionals who are trained in fine art, art history and chemistry, in addition to specialized conservation techniques. The video below shows the one the paintings as it undergoes treatment.

Video of the conservation of Michele Marieschi’s The Grant Canal, Venice, with the Dogana de Mare and Basilica Santa Maria delle Salute.

After the conservation was complete, two beautiful paintings emerged. They show the famous Venetian gondolas gliding and jostling in the waters of Venice’s Grand Canal. Michele Marieschi made many such vedute, or depictions of picturesque views, for the tourist trade. In the foreground at the left of The Grant Canal, Venice, with the Dogana de Mare and Basilica Santa Maria delle Salute is the Dogana di Mare, or customs House. Its tower is topped by a sculpture of Fortune holding a ship’s sail atop the globe, symbolizing Venice’s dominating role in world trade. Slightly farther into the distance looms the white dome of Santa Maria della Salute, a grand church built in the seventeenth century in thanks for the city’s delivery from the plague.

The other one of the pair of paintings by Marieschi is titled for its central feature, The Rialto Bridge. Such beautiful historic constructions were attractions for the wealthy Europeans who traveled around France and Italy on the cultural pilgrimage termed the Grand Tour.

This painting and its mate of the Rialto Bridge once hung at Strawberry Hill, the famous country house of British author and collector Horace Walpole. Walpole apparently bought the newly completed paintings when he visited Venice in 1841 as a young man enjoying the Grand Tour. Over 100 years later, Arkansas collectors purchased the work and later gave it to the Arts Center. Now the pair of paintings may finally be seen in all their original glory.

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