At the end
of the Middle Ages, a decorative technique of applied brocade (ger. Pressbrokat) was developed. Low reliefs
were typically made by pressing different materials into finely carved molds
through a tin foil. Painted or gilded, they were then attached to the wooden
surface of paintings or sculptures. Reliefs imitated the brocade fabrics. The
technique was popular in most of Europe for about a hundred years, until the
middle of the sixteenth century. The technique was replaced by other techniques
of fabric imitation, such as sgraffito,
where the pattern was scraped out of paint applied to the gilt.
caused typical, frequent and extensive damages to reliefs. Layers separated,
detached and fell off the support. A variety of component materials respond to
environmental changes differently. Their binding properties change over time.
Due to the lack of knowledge of this extremely rare technique in Slovenian
patrimony, inadequate treatment of such surfaces also occurred.
materials and creative techniques can help to determine the time and place or
even the authorship of artworks. This knowledge is also extremely important in
the conservation-restoration treatment. It is crucial to determine the material
composition, state of preservation, type and causes of damages prior to the
intervention. Through these findings we determine the working plan, what is
possible and what is right to do.
sculpture of a young pope in the National Gallery of Slovenia’s collection is
painted while the papal tiara and the cope are gilded. His gown is made in
applied brocade. The tin foil was originally painted to imitate gold.
Originally a relic box was located in the middle of the chest. The selection of
component materials shows the influence from the German territory and the pomegranate
pattern is influenced by the North Italian workshops.
for the conservation-restoration treatment were structural and aesthetic. The
most damaged area was the applied brocade, where only about a third was
preserved. Later layers have changed the relief pattern further. The gilded cope
and tiara and the painted parts are well preserved. The very darkened surface
was visually disturbing and aesthetically unacceptable. The key goal of the
conservation-restoration treatment was to prevent further damage and to render
possible the displaying of the statue.
several attempts to save the applied brocade and different materials wereapplied to it in the past. The
recent treatment of this area was therefore limited to fixing/consolidating
remnants of the relief. Surface cleaning and the removal darkened schellack
layer from other parts were successful. Minimal retouching completed the
brocade most likely originally represented the main decorative element of the
sculpture. For better understanding of the artwork we present a drawing of the
remains of the relief pattern and an attempt to partially reconstruct the
pomegranate pattern, which was done according to similar examples. Graphic
reconstruction may not be able to satisfy fully the presentation of the
three-dimensional technique, therefore further possibilities are offered by
conservation-restoration treatment with accompanying documentation was carried
out at the Conservation and Restoration Department of the National Gallery
within the framework of the diploma work of the student of restoration Erica
Sartori. Her thesis with an in-depth study of the technique was rewarded with
Prešeren Prize for UL ALUO students for the academic year 2017/18.
Martina Vuga, Erica Sartori
Andrej Hirci, Erica Sartori
ZVKDS Restavratorski center
7 February – 6 March 2019
National Gallery of Slovenia