Wednesday, January 31, 2007

700 years and counting

These three panels started out in France in the late 1200's, but are now making up part of the ceiling of the late William Randolph Hearst's bedroom at Hearst Castle in central California.

Amazingly, other than a professional cleaning according to current conservation practices, the panels have not been restored at all. The colors are clear and vibrant; when you see them "in person" the characters look like they're ready to step right out into the room.

Chalk up another accomplishment for those poor benighted medieval folks. Their knowledge of the chemistry of their paints was rudimentary, but they knew what lasted and what didn't. When an ordinary medieval artist painted something, it stayed painted. (Interesting that Leonardo, by modern acclaim an incomparable genius, botched the technical side of his Last Supper fresco so badly it started to fall apart within a few decades).

I wonder how much of the "art" that hangs in today's galleries will still be around in 100 years, let alone 700. Or how much of that anyone would think of hanging in their bedroom.