Nature transmuted into silver

Looking into the presence of turtles in artworks has turned into a little bit of an obsession for the Turtle Team. Every storyline has provided new ideas and insights into the context of the object this all started with: The Portrait of Prince Frederick Henry on Horseback (1631), painted on a large green sea turtle…

Turtle Cuisine

Imagine you lived in the 18th century and were invited to a fancy dinner party, and the foods that they would serve you during these banquets were, to say the least, very exotic. One of the items that was a must-have was turtle soup and other delicacies made from green sea turtles. However, these magnificent…

Tortoise shell: the real thing and its imitations

This lorgnette from the Rijksmuseum, dated around 1900, reflects a long history of turtle shell fashion, as just one example of many objects made with the real material and, in this case, also possibly its imitation. The combination of its high cost and the decreasing number of turtles led to the popularization of imitations. They…

The sea turtle: a skeleton turned inside out

This 17th century print of a turtle’s skeleton by Andries Jacobsz. Stock, is part of a series of animal skeletons after prints by the Italian print maker Teodoro Filippo di Liagno (c.1587-1630). Di Liagno, who worked at the court of Cosimo II De’Medici in Florence, produced this series of etchings of animal skeletons for Johann…

The unexpected journey of the green sea turtle…..

Once upon a time…in the early 17th century, an artist decided, or was commissioned, to paint a portrait of Prince Frederick Henry on horseback, on a very large shell or carapace of a green sea turtle. This rather unusual choice of painting support evoked the curiosity of many visitors of the 80 Year’s War exhibition…

The wonders of weaving

As Rijksmuseum Professor of Studio Practice and Technical Art History at the University of Amsterdam, I am working with a fantastic group of students from the MA programme in Technical Art History.  Although teaching continues during lock down, we were very lucky to just finish the practical part of our module Modern and Contemporary Art…

Technical Art History: unravelling the secrets of making

How did artists and artisans work, which materials and techniques did they use and why and how did objects survive the impact of time? Our art works are dynamic entities, with many histories concealed within them. We use intedisciplianry research to reveal them.

Georg Friedrich Händel and the Braamcamp clock

Many hands make light work. This applies to both the making of the Braamcamp clock, as well as to the restoration of the so-called “Braamcamp” clock, both perfect examples of team work. On occasion, the Rijksmuseum’s conservation studios collaborate with other museums, in this case Museum Speelklok in Utrecht which,in 2016, acquired this monumental clock…

Regenerating Rembrandt’s Night Watch: a restoration method from the past

Max von Pettenkofer (1818–1901) a German chemist and hygienist invented the regeneration technique, a method to improve the saturation of blanched varnish layers on old master paintings. In 1870 he published a small book on this method: Über Ölfarbe und Conservirung der Gemälde-Gallerien durch das Regenerations-Verfahren. Esther van Duijn, a painting conservator and art historian…

Printing Daguerreotypes: Joseph Berres’s Phototyp

A thin pamphlet holding a couple of pages of printed text, a handwritten letter, and four somewhat hazy prints, held by the Rijksmuseum Research Library, caught the attention of the Rijksmuseum’s photograph conservator Martin Jürgens four years ago. What did the pamphlet’s German title, Phototyp nach der Erfindung des Prof. Berres in Wien, actually mean?…