Technical examination of enamels from the Botkin collection

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Publication Type:

Journal Article

Authors:

Helfenstein, Eva; Eremin, Katherine; Newman, Richard; Gates, Glenn; Drayman-Weisser, Terry; DeRoo, Cathy Selvius; Klausmeyer, Philip; Freestone, Ian;

Source:

Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number S1, p.147-156 (2012)

Abstract:

This study examines a unpublished cloisonné enamel on gold, showing Christ Enthroned, in the collections of the Harvard Art Museums, and seven cloisonné enamels from the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Washington, D.C., and the Worcester Art Museum, all USA. All these pieces have a Byzantine appearance and were formerly in the possession of the Russian artist Mikhail Botkin (1839‐1914). Botkin's unusually large and homogeneous collections of Byzantine cloisonné enamels repeatedly raised doubts about the authenticity of many of the pieces, which were suspected to be modern imitations. Analytical and art-historical evidence, including X-ray fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy, confirmed that seven of the eight pieces examined were late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century copies of Byzantine originals. The study showed that there was a wide variety of enamel and metal compositions, with some differences in techniques used. These argue for creation in multiple workshops, over a period of time, and/or opportunistic use of materials. The exception is the enamel showing Christ Emmanuel (Walters Art Museum) which is more consistent with a genuine Byzantine piece and may be an original, although further study is required to confirm this.