A years-long restoration undertaken by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden has entirely altered the understanding of a 17th-century painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. What was once thought to be a somewhat glum depiction of a young girl reading near a window is now an amorous portrayal thanks to the unveiling of a naked Cupid hanging in the background.
Conservators knew the image of the Roman god of love existed after a 1979 X-ray, although it was assumed that Vermeer had altered the piece himself. Only after they performed a series of infrared reflectography imagings, microscopic analyses, and X-ray fluorescence examinations in 2017 did they realize that the Cupid was covered decades after the painter’s death, even though they still aren’t sure who marred the original piece or when. This dramatic of an alteration is rare during restoration, considering standard processes generally involve simple cleaning and repairs.
“When layers of varnish from the 19th century began to be removed from the painting, the conservators discovered that the ‘solubility properties’ of the paint in the central section of the wall were different to those elsewhere in the painting,” a statement says, explaining further:
Following further investigations, including tests in an archaeometry laboratory, it was discovered that layers of binding agent and a layer of dirt existed between the image of Cupid and the overpainting. The conservators concluded that several decades would have passed between the completion of one layer and the addition of the next and therefore concluded that Vermeer could not have painted over the Cupid himself.
The new restoration—dive into the lengthy process in the video below—is just one of the mysteries that’s surrounded “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” since its creation between 1657–59. Originally attributed to Rembrandt and later to Pieter de Hooch, the artwork wasn’t properly credited until 1880. The piece is evocative of another one of Vermeer’s works, “Lady Standing at a Virginal,” though, which similarly features a painting within a painting by showing a solitary figure standing near a window with Cupid on the wall behind her.
“Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” will be on view in its original form for the first time in centuries as part of an expansive exhibition dedicated to the painter running from September 10, 2021, to January 2, 2022, at the Dresden museum. (via Kottke)
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French photographer Thibaud Poirier continues his Sacred Spaces series by capturing the modern architecture of dozens of temples across Europe. Similar to earlier images, Poirier uses the same focal point of the front pulpit and pews in all of the photographs, allowing easy comparisons between the colors, motifs, and structural details of each location. “I selected these spaces for the use of original materials, modern for their time in sacred architecture, like steel, concrete, as well as large aluminum and glass panels,” he tells Colossal. Because travel has been limited due to COVID-19, Poirier has mostly visited 20th- and 21st-century churches in France, Germany, and the Netherlands for Sacred Spaces II, although he plans to expand his range in the coming months. Keep an eye out for those shots on Behance and Instagram.
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Within the vast collections of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a trove of dried specimens that once were juicy seeds and fruits primed for reproduction. Now gnarled, fractured, and blanketed in tiny, dehydrated bristles, the individual pods have been preserved as part of the carpological archive at the Scottish institution, a resource photographer Levon Biss (previously) spent hours sifting through in preparation for a stunning new series of macro images.
Spanning from the rampant clusters of the Ko Phuang to endangered rarities like the Coco de Mer, the photographs reveal the inner details otherwise enclosed within the specimens’ shells. Texture and subtle color differences are the basis for most of the shots, which frame a cracked or sliced pod in a manner that centers on their unique components.
The botanic garden’s collection is global in scope and boasts about 100 individual pieces per species, meaning Biss sorted through hundreds of thousands to choose the final 117 that have culminated in his new book The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits. Initially culled based on aesthetics, the resulting selection encompasses all processes of seed dispersal, along with information about morphology, location, and history. “I tried to make sure all methods were included in the overall edit so that the work becomes an educational tool, not just pretty pictures,” Biss tells Colossal, further explaining the research process:
Each specimen is contained within a small box, and sometimes, you would find a handwritten note on a scrap of paper where the botanist provided a visual description of the surroundings where the specimen was found. Some of these specimens are over 100 years old, and reading these very personal notes made me wonder what the botanist had to go through to find that specimen. What were their traveling conditions like? What did they have to endure to bring the specimen back to Edinburgh? Reading these notes gave me a connection with the botanist and was certainly one of my personal highlights of the project.
On view in the same space as the original specimens, Biss’s photos are up at the Royal Botanic Gardens through October 31. The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits, which is published by Abrams, is available now on Bookshop, and you can find prints from the series on the photographer’s site. Keep up with his biological snapshots, which include a striking collection of iridescent beetles, on Instagram.
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Indiana-based artist Jessica Calderwood imbues her whimsically camouflaged figures with questions about the female psyche. Whether covered by a polka-dotted orb or stuck in a ruffled tube of fabric, her nondescript women are temporarily trapped by their environments, their only defining features the sleek black pumps or striped kneesocks that stick out from their disguise. This concealment, Calderwood says, serves as “a negation, a censoring or denial of what lies beneath. These anthropomorphic beings are at once, powerful and powerless, beautiful and absurd, inflated, and amputated.”
Deftly melding historical techniques with contemporary themes of identity, each of the works is rooted in traditional craftsmanship. A focus on mixed media is at the center of Calderwood’s broad body of work, which spans metalsmithing, jewelry, and wall-based ceramics, and many of her projects blend materials like enamel, porcelain, polymer clay, and felted wool to further evoke craft forms.
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Curved patches and geometric blocks comprise the layered portraits by Denver-based artist Lui Ferreyra (previously). Working both digitally and with colored pencil on paper, Ferreyra overlaps outlined fragments filled with thin lines to convey shadow and light, creating nuanced portrayals of his subjects. The prismatic works shown here are some of the artist’s more recent personal projects and commissions, which show the development of his distinct style during the last few years, in addition to the contrast he continues to draw between densely composed fields of color and larger expanses of negative space.
Ferreyra is currently a resident in The Ramble Hotel’s Art Can program, and his illustrations will be on view at the Denver location’s pop-up gallery through September 7. A few prints are available in his shop, and you can follow his work on Instagram.
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French artist Jean Jullien (previously) brings his signature cartoonish characters to a new line of minimally illustrated surfboards. A collaboration with the manufacturer Fernand, the four spirited designs feature a pair of grinning fish, a relaxed whale, and a playful seal painted on single-color backdrops. To create the pieces, Jullien hand-illustrates each of the marine creatures on the foam boards before they’re glazed by Resin League and polished by Paul Hyde. You can find out more about the collaboration along with information on purchasing the varied designs on the artist’s Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.