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L’ etude d’un cabinet singulier

The other day I was asked what I like most about my job. This is an easy question for me to answer, and likely just as easy for any serious art conservator or other museum professional.

Simply put, what I like most about my job is that I get to look at works of art. I probably spend more time looking in one week than most people do in a whole year. When I’m looking, I always start with trying to figure out from what and how a work is made. For me, these are the most interesting questions to investigate. If you can’t put together at least some rough answers, then you really can’t make any further assumptions (art historical or otherwise), and you’re certainly not going to be in a good position to make good conservation decisions.

I rarely ever get to the question of whether or not I like an artwork; in conservation, answering that question doesn’t really get me anywhere.

This week I’ve had the exceptional opportunity to look at a rare corner cabinet with carvings by Emile Bernard. This cabinet is one of only four known examples produced by the Pont-Aven School (one is at the Norton Simon, one is at the AIC, and the other in Paris). It made quite a big splash when we acquired it this year.

In an effort to better understand the construction of the cabinet, I’m working alongside the IMA’s Pont-Aven specialist, Ellen Lee, The Wood-Pulliam Senior Curator, and Jérôme Séré, ebéniste restaurateur de mobilier (cabinetmaker and furniture restoration specialist) who specializes in this type of cabinetry.

We’ve started our technical examination of the piece by measuring and inspecting each element, and then making radiographs of certain joins, and finally producing IRR images to look for under drawings. The IMA’s New Media folks were down in the lab yesterday to make a video about the work, so stay tuned for that. Also, the cabinet will be featured in the forthcoming IMA Magazine.

But today, I want to share a few sneak peaks of our work.  Here are some digital radiographic images I produced yesterday that show the refined joinery of the cabinet and the hardware used to make the cabinet doors swing open.

Bernard Corner Cabinet, Lowest Section, Top Proper Left

Bernard Corner Cabinet, Lowest Section, Bottom Proper Left

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Technology

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