Enamels Survey

enamel of Jesus praying in the garden alone with apostles sleeping in the foreground and a crowd entering in the background, angel near white structure

"The Agony in the Garden," by Jean I Pénicaud (1490-after 1543).

photograph of ultraviolet irradiation of "The Agony in the Garden"

The Agony in the Garden, under ultraviolet irradiation.

capture of annotated enamel image with condition remarks and key for restorative purposes

Transfer of 2001 and 2008 hand annotated images to digital files using graphic design software.

screenshot of the Frick Collection Database, showing related fields and image

Creation of a database with history, condition, treatment.

closeup of enamel, gold stars and black etchings over dark blue, light blue, green, amber background

Detail of upper right corner, with crizzling in blue enamel.

black etchings on green and amber background

Detail above halo of figure just left of Christ, silver foil below green and amber enamel.

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An assessment of the condition of the enamels in The Frick Collection has been carried out at different times throughout the history of the Collection. Condition notes were published in the Frick catalogues in 1955 and 1977, written by art historians Joseph Breck and Phillipe Verdier, respectively. In addition, more systematic surveys were carried out by conservators Harry Nelson in 1963 and 1972 and Rostislav Hlopoff in 1966. In 2001 Terry Drayman-Weisser of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, identified the problem of glass deterioration during a thorough survey of the enamels collection. Barbara Roberts, the Frick’s first staff conservator, supervised the project, which resulted in the compilation of  a complete record of the photography and condition history for the enamels. Specific recommendations for the treatment and storage of each object were made at this time.

In 2008 Frick Assistant Conservator Julia Day reassessed the condition of the enamels and reviewed the recommendations put forth in 2001. Several outcomes resulted: the development of a more comprehensive documentation that included high-resolution digital photo-documentation in both normal illumination and ultraviolet irradiation; the transfer of 2001 and 2008 hand-annotated images to digital files using graphic design software; the creation of a database with history, condition, treatment, and frame notes; and digital photomacrographs of the enamel surface. More important, the reassessment revealed that the enamels exhibited signs of increased glass deterioration, a phenomenon that occurs because of the fundamental instability of the glass composition or of environmental conditions, or both. The Conservation Department is currently working on improving the storage and display environments for these enamels.

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