Few individuals have made as many, or as significant, contributions to the field of “technical art history” than Molly Faries. Through her solo research studies, her collaborative partnerships with other leaders in the field, and her training and mentoring of young scholars, Professor Emerita Faries has led by example for more than thirty years. Here, in her most recent edited volume, Faries demonstrates once again her leadership in, and mastery of, this important field.
Published as part of Brepols ‘Me Fecit’ series, Making and Marketingtakes as its point of departure a paper session entitled “Painters’ Workshops in the Sixteenth-Century Netherlands” organized by Faries for the Historians of Netherlandish Art conference held in Antwerp in 2002. Contributions include papers by five scholars from the original session, plus articles by nine additional scholars, written specifically for this publication. The scope of the original session topic has been expanded to include studies of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century painters in the Northern and Southern Netherlands, as well as France. Media and techniques studied go beyond panel painting to include prints and printmaking, manuscript illumination, and tapestry production. The list of contributors includes many established scholars in the field as well as a few new authors whose names are certain to become familiar as leaders in the next generation of scholars.
Through this collection of articles, Faries and her co-authors take a corrective, cross-disciplinary approach to the concept of workshops as corporate endeavors existing primarily for the purpose of rapid or mass production. Not surprisingly for a study of paintings from this period, most of the contributing authors use infrared reflectography (IRR) as their analytical method of choice. Some authors apply the technique of dendrochronology for the study and dating of panel supports, while others include x-radiography and cross-sectional pigment analysis in their repertoire of scientific methods. In a new approach, several authors apply socio-economic research methods to address the relationships of artists to each other, and to the emerging art markets of the period.
Faries opens the volume with a thorough introduction to the topic of workshops and workshop practices in northern Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. To ease the confusion of language used by scholars when discussing various workshop practices, Faries proposes the terms “superimposed collaboration” and “juxtaposed collaboration” to distinguish between artists working in sequential layers on a single painting from those working side-by-side to complete a panel or series.
In separate articles, Micha Leefang and Daantje Meuwissen review the influence of prints and print making on both stylistic and compositional elements in the workshop products of Joos van Cleve and Jacob Corneliz.Van Oostsanen. Maryan Ainsworth and Margreet Wolters discuss the concept of serial production as evidenced in the workshops of Bernard van Orley and Joachim Beuckelaer, respectively.
Through their adaptation of socio-economic methods Linda Jansen and Maria Galassi present research that tests conventional thinking about workshop collaboration as either sequential or simultaneous practice. Ron Spronk and Catharina van Daalen present a thorough “case study” of two panels in the collection of the Harvard University Art Museum as the products of collaboration between the workshop of a carpenter and that of a painter. Liesbeth M. Helmus, Maximiliaan P.J. Martens, and Natasja Peeters present archival research on employment contracts and guild records to distinguish journeymen and shop assistants, and to quantify the variety of artistic trades in the sixteenth-century Netherlands.
With an essay not part of the original HNA conference session, Anne H. van Buren extends the analysis of workshop collaboration to the domain of manuscript illumination. Helene Verougstraete and Roger van Schoute present a remarkable analysis of compositional elements in a number of copies, pastiches, and forgeries after Hieronymus Bosch.
Footnotes for each essay are detailed and extensive, while a comprehensive bibliography rewards the serious reader with numerous opportunities for further study. Without a glossary of technical terms, the publication may be more fully appreciated by the specialist scholar rather than the interested general reader. Much more than just another volume of “technical studies,” Making and Marketing makes a significant contribution to our expanding knowledge about the painting processes followed by Netherlandish artists, and to our understanding of late Medieval and Renaissance workshop practice.
Nancy E. Zinn
The Walters Art Museum