Missing piece of 16th-century mural recreated virtually
Technology developed for rock concert light shows is now being used for conservation purposes
By Emily Sharpe. Web only
Published online: 03 November 2010
Light projection technology developed for theatrical performances and rock concerts is being used to “virtually reintegrate” a lost sequence of a German 16th-century mural. The adaption of this technology for conservation purposes is the brainchild of Michaela Janke, a student at the Institute of Conservation Sciences at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.
A team of conservators, led by Dr Nicole Riedl from the University of Applied Sciences and Art in Hildesheim, began work on the mural at the Brömserhof Museum in Rüdesheim am Rhein in 2007. The ancestral hall and chapel of the former stately home turned musical instrument museum contains a series of secco paintings (paintings on dry plaster) by Hans Ritter, a student of Lucas Cranach the Elder, that were damaged during the second world war.
Janke knew that a watercolour copy of the missing sequence made in 1898 by German artist and restorer Gustav Ballin was held in the Rüdesheim municipal archive. “I wanted to show Ballin's historic copies of the murals, not a 21st-century reconstruction,” said Janke, adding: “I first thought of slide-projection, but the curvature of the vault would make this extremely difficult.”
She contacted software and hardware companies Coolux GmbH and Burmester Event und Medientechnik, which created a digital picture file of the 19th-century watercolour. A grid pattern was then projected onto the 1.5 sq. m area that was missing its decoration and the digital image was manipulated using specially developed software to allow for the curvature of the wall. It is this ability to manipulate the projected image that makes this technology a groundbreaking new tool for conservators.
“The benefit of this new method is that it is non-invasive and completely reversible. A UV filter can be put in front of the light source to avoid possible light damage to the paintings,” said Janke. She added: “It also helps the spectator clearly distinguish between the original and the newly restored areas. It's not an attempt to mislead the spectator into thinking that the mural is completely original.”
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