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?…

Cleaning of pictures: innovative methods

Most of the paintings in the Rijksmuseum collection are varnished, which means that a transparent layer containing natural resin and sometimes drying oil, and/or a solvent, has been applied to the paint surface to protect, and create depth by saturating the colours. Unfortunately, as most natural products, picture varnishes are not stable and will deteriorate…

16th-century stained glass, crown, cylinder, silver stain and more…

Eight delicate glass panels from the 16th century by famous artists such as Jacob de Gheyn I, Lambert van Noort and Dirck Pietersz Crabeth, were recently acquired by, or respectively donated to the Rijksmuseum. Some needed conservation treatment, which is always an excellent opportunity to investigate these delicate objects further to understand their making, as…

Beautiful and intricate: the tapestry Alexander and Jaddua

The beautiful and intricate tapestry Alexander and Jaddua (Karel van Mander II, Delft, 1617-1619) is at present undergoing treatment in the Rijksmuseum textile restoration studio. Mieke Albers, one of the Rijksmuseum’s textile conservators, explains how after treatment it will be displayed together with The fire of Persepolis (Delft, 1619, Karel van Mander II) and Scipio…

Nigritella Nigra no. 1 ‘chequered like Arlecchino’s costume’

Nigritella Nigra, a chest of drawers designed by the Italian architect, writer, designer and painter Alessandro Mendini (1931), came to the Rijksmuseum as a gift from the heir of Frans Haks, the well- known director of the Groninger Museum, who opened the new museum building designed by Mendini in 1994. Alessandro Mendini, Nigritella Nigra no….

Har Mertens, hot-tempered character or sensitive restorer of Rembrandts?

Knowing how artworks were restored in the past is essential for our understanding of their present appearance. My colleague, paintings conservator Esther van Duijn, is currently working on a three-year research project to study the conservation history of the paintings collection of the Rijksmuseum.* During her research she came across the intriguing figure of Henricus Hubertus…

Shoes from Nova Zembla: Ice and Fire

In 1596, Willem Barentz and his crew made their third voyage to the Artic hoping to find a northeastern sea route to Asia. Fortune was again not with them as their ship got stuck in the ice and they were forced to stay at Nova Zembla, an island in the arctic circle, during the winter months…

Lizards and letters in Jamnitzer’s table centerpiece

The Rijksmuseum collection comprises a wide range of superb artefacts of which the so-called Merkelsche Tafelaufsatz, a magnificent table centerpiece made in 1549 by the Nuremberg goldsmith Wenzel Jamnitzer (1508-1585, Vienna), is an extraordinary example. The centerpiece is approximately one meter high, made entirely out of partially gilded silver, and is well-known for its life casts…