Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Craquelure: Animal glue, or shabby chic?

This week's post is brought to you again by intern Jennie!

Greetings and salutations, fellow art lovers! This week’s installment of Shock of the New will be The Threshold of Liberty. Artist and critic Ann Klefstad will be speaking after the show. Join us at the lovely Zinema 2 at 11am this Saturday, March 10th for a rollicking good time.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:  This week’s word of the week is…

cra•que•lure noun [krak-loor, krak-loor; Fr. krakuh-lyr] :
a network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting, caused chiefly by shrinkage of paint film or varnish.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo (full name: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, yeowza!) are a famous and controversial example of this. Michelangelo used the buon fresco technique to paint the ceiling, which is the technique of painting on wet plaster (hence the label of “fresco” instead of “painting”). Because of the ceiling’s surface craquelure, as well as dirt and flaking, a decision was made to clean it.

A before and after of the prophet David on the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The entire surface was at one point covered with animal glue (which is a glue made by boiling animal skins, bones, tendons, and other tissues; ew). This was not original to Michelangelo’s work, but was added later. The glue is what caused the gross flaking, along with trapping in a layer of dirt and rainwater over time, which was quite damaging. Before further damage, the glue needed to come off.

Between June 1980 and December 1999, a restoration took place. 

Here comes the controversy!

Although the restoration did make the colors cleaner and brighter, what came along with the cleaning, unfortunately, were some pretty radical changes to the original frescoes.  During the cleaning process, it is said that some of Michelangelo’s original details were erased.  Highlights, shadows, and alterations made by Michelangelo (called pentimenti) all suffered from the restoration.  This made many people sad.

So, what do you think!  A cleaner, brighter, less damaged ceiling vs. a loss of original intent.  Was the cleaning worth it? 

Some people who aren’t art restorers love craquelure!

To fool guests into believing you are tremendously cultured and own beautiful, antique pieces of art or furniture, you can purposefully create a craquelure effect on modern day items in a matter of minutes rather than decades.

I believe it’s called “shabby-chic.”

Here’s a how-to video to help you get fancy!

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