Peptide analysis of a material imbedded into the abdomen and sides of this Songye Community Nkisi (VMFA 89.27)

Beneath the Surface of African Art: Leather, Bone and Blood- Proteomics in Art Conservation

By Casey Mallinckrodt, Andrew Mellon Assistant Conservator Conservators carry out technical analyses to identify materials to guide our decision-making, if treatment is required, and to predict and prevent future deterioration by ensuring that objects are handled and stored appropriately. In addition, technical information contributes to our understanding of an object within its cultural context and enhances what…

How the Authenticity Question Surrounding Achilles Among the Daughters of Lycomedes, a Painting by Nicolas Poussin, was Resolved

By Carol Sawyer, Margaret H. & William E. Massey Sr. Conservator of Paintings The Painting Conservation Department performs treatments, examinations and research related to the VMFA painting collection. In the course of doing this work questions regarding the authenticity of a work of art sometimes arise. Technical analysis and in-depth examination of the materials and…

Full Circle: VMFA Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver on Howardena Pindell

Howardena Pindell has consistently broken new ground during her five-decades-long artistic career. In 1967, she was the first female African American to graduate from Yale University’s MFA program then began working as the first female black curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her diverse body of art—from abstract canvases to photography…

Manet’s Painting, On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer

By Bruce Suffield While studying Édouard Manet’s painting, On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer (Accession # 85.498), in the painting conservation studio, it was noted that the artist had used numerous and different brush strokes around one of the compositional elements.  He had most likely changed the area around the edges of the bathing machine or bathing…

Beneath the Surface of African Art: The Importance of Wood Identification

By Casey Mallinckrodt, Assistant Conservator The conservation initiative in African art funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation is allowing the VMFA Conservation Center to deepen capacity by acquiring analytic equipment, engaging specialist consultants, and also by developing specialized expertise within the Conservation staff. This winter Assistant Conservator Casey Mallinckrodt participated in an intensive course…

South African Artist Esther Mahlangu Awarded Honorary Doctorate by the University of Johannesburg

Esther Mahlangu, whose dazzling, mural-size paintings provide a gateway to the VMFA African art galleries, has just been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Johannesburg for “her legacy as a cultural entrepreneur and educator, skillfully negotiating local and global worlds.” Dr. Mahlangu, the most renowned artist of South Africa’s Ndebele people, developed the…

drilling demonstration

Beneath the Surface of African Art: Thermoluminescence Sampling of Terracotta Sculptures from Africa

To test terracotta using TL dating, conservators take a powdered sample from an unobtrusive area of the object using a high-speed drill. Due to the fragile nature of these objects and the risk of causing damage through improper technique, only an experienced conservator or trained sampling agent should collect the sample. We reached out to…

African American Read-In: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney recites “Wise I” by Amiri Baraka in front of Sanford Biggers’s artwork Overstood

African American Read-In at VMFA

The galleries at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts were full of a different kind of art — literature — at the African American Read-In (AARI). This annual event, which occurs during Black History Month, celebrates African and African American art and literature as community leaders read aloud in front of African and African American…