Uncovering the History of a Polychrome Wooden Reliquary from the National Gallery of Slovenia: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Author: Erica Sartori
Mentors: Miladi Makuc Semion, Associate Professor, Martina Vuga, MA, Teaching Assistant

Department of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art, Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Study programme: Second-Cycle Master's Study Programme Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art
Specialization: Paintings and Polychrome Sculpture (1st year of study)

This article aims to underline the importance of using an interdisciplinary approach while researching the historical background of the object before conservation-restoration, and how these discoveries can influence the decision-making process and the significance of the artwork overall. The significance of this approach is explained through the case of a late gothic reliquary bust belonging to the collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia. The artwork underwent a long process of research and conservation-restoration, during which plenty of data was collected about its past history, its material composition and its technology; of remarkable value was the discovery of a particular decorative technique known as applied brocade, which had never before been studied in Slovenia. The combination of archival data, physical observation and data collected from scientific analyses helped to uncover a surprisingly rich and interesting history which had an impact on the decision-making process, especially on the aesthetic presentation and graphic reconstruction of the area decorated with applied brocade, and gave new meaning and value to the artwork.

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Short biography

Born in Trieste in 1994, ERICA SARTORI is a postgraduate student specializing in polychrome wooden sculpture conservation at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana. She has been an intern at the conservation department of the National Gallery of Slovenia and at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, Belgium. In the academic year of 2017/2018 she has received the Prešeren Award for students of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana for her BA thesis on the decorative technique known as "applied brocade".