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Battle of the Nudes

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Discover the Battle of the Nudes

Large Corner Fill

At the lower left corner, and continuous with the left side's edge loss, is a much larger loss that is distinct from the other repairs. First, it alone represents a damage that could be considered excessive even given the print's large size and ravages of time. Second, it involves a repair technique that is potentially far more elaborate and highly unusual (at this time no other restoration of this type is known).

As with the other repairs, the larger fill is very difficult to detect - nearly impossible to make out in normal light as seen here - and its disguise is all the more impressive because it intrudes so far into the image.

Image of 56.  Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view.
56. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view.
Image of 57. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall with corner fill enhanced.
57. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall with corner fill enhanced.
Image of 58. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, verso, overall view.
58. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, verso, overall view.
Image of 59. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, verso, overall view with corner fill enhanced.
59. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, verso, overall view with corner fill enhanced.

Notice again on the back that the repair area for the insert is much larger than on the front. As with the tear repairs and the side inserts this is due to the restoration technique of thinning the paper on the back of the print well beyond the actual area of loss and thinning the repair paper in a corresponding manner. When the two papers are joined, there is a wide overlap and the combined thickness of the two papers equals that of the single sheet.

The shaded areas indicate the insert - the paper and image appear to be a perfect match to the original and the result is an invisible repair. However, with the right viewing conditions, it is possible to see that it is neither a perfect match nor a completely invisible join.

Transmitted light reveals that the density of the fill paper is slightly greater than that of the surrounding original paper. It is also possible to see that the intensity of the ink line differs: in the area of the fill, the lines look paler, as though the ink has not penetrated the paper here in the same manner as the surrounding original print. These are two clues to finding and identifying the insert.


60. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall with transmitted light.
60. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall with transmitted light.
Image of 61. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, close-up of large corner fill.
61. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, close-up of large corner fill.
62. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, close-up with join between corner fill and original print outlined.
62. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, close-up with join between corner fill and original print outlined.

On the back of the engraving, the ink lines are very visible throughout because the thin printing ink has penetrated the translucent paper.


Image of 63. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, verso, overall view.
63. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, verso, overall view.
Below are three sets of comparison illustrations taken with normal light from the back of the print - an area of the fill is on the left and an unrestored area on the right. Notice how the fill area looks quite different from the original paper; this is especially apparent with increased magnification in the second two comparisons. In the area of the fill, the repair paper is actually stippled with watercolor (or ink) to simulate the effect of printing ink sinking into paper. This stippled retouching was the restorer's technique to visually reintegrate the repair paper with the surrounding original. Stippling was used repeatedly on the back of the print wherever the original paper was removed and back-filled with a repair paper, so all the tear repairs and side fills have this characteristic as a further means of identification. The stippling is most obvious in the instance of this large corner fill.


Image of 64. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, close-up of corner fill on verso showing stippled retouching on fill paper to simulate printing ink.
64. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, close-up of corner fill on verso showing stippled retouching on fill paper to simulate printing ink.
Image of 65. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, close-up of original on verso to show ink penetration to the verso.
65. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, close-up of original on verso to show ink penetration to the verso.
Image of 66. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing stippled retouching on fill paper.
66. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing stippled retouching on fill paper.
Image of 67. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression,  magnified detail of verso showing effect of original printing ink.
67. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing effect of original printing ink.
Image of 68. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing stippled retouching on fill paper.
68. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing stippled retouching on fill paper.
Image of 69. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing effect of original printing ink.
69. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of verso showing effect of original printing ink.
In the more magnified details it is possible to see that in addition to stippling in watercolor the restorer has used touches of graphite and red crayon or chalk to help tone and visually reintegrate the back of the fill paper with the original.

By examining the fill area from the front with magnification, we are able to identify the fill as a collotype reproduction by its characteristic "reticulated grain"; this grain is often compared to the texture of an orange peel. As the grain of the collotype becomes clearer so does the distinction between the collotype and original printed lines. See the detail and comparative images below for clarification.


Image of 70. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of figure's toes in collotype fill lower left corner.
70. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of figure's toes in collotype fill, lower left corner.
Image of 71. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of collotype fill, lower left corner.
71. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of collotype fill, lower left corner.
Image of 72. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of original printed lines.
72. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of original printed lines.
Image of 73. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of collotype fill, lower left corner.
73. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of collotype fill, lower left corner.
Image of 74. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of original printed lines.
74. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of original printed lines.

Collotypes are photomechanical reproductions. The technique is based on a French discovery patented in 1855. The first commercial collotypes were produced in 1868 in Germany; the process was in full commercial use by 1870. In the second half of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, the collotype was used to reproduce, among other things, important works of art, often to full-scale dimensions as seen here. Collotype was the preferred process for high quality reproductions because it afforded a screen-less image and unrivaled tonal range and quality. One drawback to reproducing intaglio prints is that the collotype is a planographic process and therefore cannot reproduce the raised lines of an engraving or the three-dimensional character of other intaglio processes.

The two pictures below were taken with strong raking light. With such illumination the printed engraved lines are visible as raised lines. Alternatively the lines of the collotype are completely flat and visible surface variations - protrusions and hollows - are due to paper texture.


Image of 75. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of printed lines in raking light showing how lines are raised in relief.
75. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of printed lines in raking light showing how lines are raised in relief.
Image of 76. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of collotype in raking light to show how the lines lack any three dimensional character.
76. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, magnified detail of collotype in raking light to show how the lines lack any three dimensional character.
Collotype and other types of photomechanical reproductions of famous prints were published by institutions like the International Chalcographical Society, Berlin. These reproductions were sold by subscription to many institutions such as the British Museum and the Albertina, as well as to private collectors. A source or publisher for a collotype of this engraving is not known at this time. [Bibliography: Hind, Early Italian Engraving Part 1, Volume 1 pp.xxii]

However, the scenario that the restorer stumbled on a life-size collotype reproduction of Pollaiuolos engraving that just happened to perfectly match the Liechtenstein/Cleveland impression is far-fetched to say the least. An alternative explanation that is far more plausible, albeit elaborate, is that the restorer had the collotype insert custom-made in order to make the repair. Kent Kirby, collotype printer, proprietor of Light-print Press in Alma, MI and author of Studio Collotype, when asked about this repair confirmed that, while the repair remains extraordinary no matter what the circumstances, such a perfect match is precisely what a highly skilled collotype printer is capable of doing.

The fine reticulated grain of the collotype is difficult to make out even with the aid of magnification. It is small wonder that, while over the years several conservators and print scholars have wondered about the corner of the print - describing it as not quite right - it was not until 1999 that the collotype insert was identified.

As already discussed raking light is a tremendously valuable tool for examining paper, but its potential has not yet been fully described in the case of this study. As seen here with carefully staged modified raking light, all of the major restorations are partially revealed by subtle planar distortions and are particulary evident on the print's verso.


Image of 77. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of engraving taken with strong raking light.
77. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of engraving taken with strong raking light.
Image of 78. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of engraving taken with strong raking light with tears enhanced.
78. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of engraving taken with strong raking light with tears enhanced.
Image of 79. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of engraving taken with strong raking light with tears, side inserts, and collotype fill enhanced. This paper's watermark is also enhanced.
79. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of engraving taken with strong raking light with tears, side inserts, and collotype fill enhanced. This paper's watermark is also enhanced.
Image of 80. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light.
80. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light.
Image of 81. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light with tears enhanced.
81. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light with tears enhanced.
Image of 82. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light with entire tear repair areas enhanced.
82. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light with entire tear repair areas enhanced.
Image of 83. Pollaiuolo, <I>Battle of the Nudes</I>, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light with tear repairs and all edge fills enhanced.
83. Pollaiuolo, Battle of the Nudes, CMA first-state impression, overall view of verso taken with strong raking light with tear repairs and all edge fills enhanced.
A compelling case can be made that one of the Schweidlers restored this print. (More about the Schweidler Restorers) This argument is based initially on the circumstantial evidence surrounding the Cleveland impression -- timing, location, anecdotal biographical information and Zinser's association. Now there is also convincing physical evidence to support this argument since we have the good fortune to be able to compare our Pollaiuolo restorations with seemingly corresponding ones thoroughly documented in Max Schweidlers restoration manual.

Yet it is essential to recognize that at this time nothing can be proven as to whom actually restored this print. As already alluded to by the possible involvement of Colnaghi's restorers, A. Drescher or his son Paul (More About the Schweidler Restorers), the restoration techniques that Max Schweidler discusses in his manual are not unique to the Schweilders (Although it is probably safe to assume that there were only a few restorers working at such a high level of skill). At this time in the history of print restoration there was an emphasis on deceptively invisible repairs and restorers were highly disinclined to disclose their tricks and tools of the trade. Owing therefore to Maxs exacting and extensive manual, the Schweidlers are somewhat of an anomaly for their time; they, and particularly Max and Carl, have become the most famous 20th century restorers as well as the most understood as far as their restoration practices are concerned. Through their combined achievements -- Max writing the book and Carl performing the restorations -- the Schweidlers exerted significant influence on the physical history and appreciation of numerous important works on paper. Their considerable legacy will continue to inform and intrigue paper conservators and print and drawing specialists and their beautiful and skillful work will continue to both amaze and fool viewers for years to come.



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