The Meaning of Making

About this research theme

This research theme builds upon the long-standing National Gallery tradition of multidisciplinary object-based research, which combines expertise found across the curatorial, scientific and conservation departments.

The National Gallery aims to contextualize the technical study of pictures within a larger art historical discourse, investigating notions of authorship, collaboration, copying, design, inspiration and the re-use, or reinterpretation, of art objects over time.

The research work that is part of The Meaning of Making is fundamental to long-term projects in the Gallery, such as the National Gallery Technical Bulletin and the cataloguing programme. The theme also incorporates research that aims to improve the analytical or imaging methods used for technical examination.

It includes interdisciplinary research on pictures associated with major restorations, one current focus being Rembrandt’s Portrait of Frederick Rihel on Horseback. Another recent project is the technical examination of paintings by Vermeer for the summer 2013 exhibition Vermeer and Music, also to be presented on the website. Work on the painting technique of Titian in the first half of his career, to be published as a special issue of the National Gallery Technical Bulletin (vol. 34) spans this research theme and that on Venetian Art and its History.

Several of the Gallery’s collaborative projects with external partners fall under this theme. The CHARISMA project [external link] is an EU-funded consortium of 21 institutions across Europe working in science applied to cultural heritage. An AHRC/EPSRC funded project [external link] with Nottingham Trent University is building new optical coherence tomography instruments for non-invasive examination. The Gallery is also collaborating in the Wallace Collection Reynolds Research Project.

Image above: Detail from Follower of Quinten Massys, Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child, about 1520?

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