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Tratteggio retouch and its derivatives as an image reintegration solution in the process of restoration

Case study : restoration of a 20th century lithograph film poster by Stefan Norblin
Magdalena Grenda

Résumés

L’article traite du problème de retouche dans la conservation- restauration du papier, concernant en particulier la retouche tratteggio et ses derivatifs que peuvent être la solution de la réintegration de l’image, non si populaire parmi les restaurateurs du papier. C’était la partie du projet de Maîtrise de l’auteur d’examiner la possibilité de l’usage de retouches comme tratteggio dans la restauration de l’affiche de cinéma polonaise de Stefan Norblin, imprimée en lithographie en couleurs.

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Notes de la rédaction

Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw – Contact : Iwona Szmelter

Texte intégral

This paper is based on the research carried out as a part of MA project at AFA (Academy of Fine Arts) in Warsaw, Poland, completed in March 2010. The author would like to thank Dr Weronika Liszewska for her support as the promoter of the thesis and as a mentor and Prof. Iwona Szmelter for her support and inspiring encouragement to work further on taken up subject.  

Introduction

1Polish historian, Krzysztof Pomian wrote:

  • 1 Pomian K., Historia. Nauka wobec pamięci, Lublin, Wydawnictwo UMCS, 2006 (translation by the author (...)

the object seems to be  a mediator between now and then, between here and there. And, first and foremost, between this which is now visible and that which was visible some time ago but is not anymore, and won’t be visible ever again1.

  • 2  Which refer to the term of authenticity, see paragraph 4. in this article

2Considering the process of conservation- restoration as the way of perception of an artifact one may easily conclude that the conservator- restorer’s perception is far different from that of a common spectator or even that of an art historian, curator etc. What is characteristic for the process of conservator- restorer’s work is that he has the opportunity to observe the same artifact in the whole variety of states of condition, from ruin to complete reconstruction. What is crucial when it comes to the process of work concerning one artifact is that the conservator- restorer becomes a quiescent viewer of the piece of the substance he has impact on, which makes this substance’s state fluctuant because its condition is in progress. Conservator- restorer is the only one that has both theoretical base and practical skills enabling him to practically influence the image of an artifact to a significant extent. For this reason it is highly important for a conservator- restorer to be aware of his own role in the process of change of artifact’s image. Furthermore, he has to be aware of factors concerned with perception of an image not only by the other specialists (art historians, curators) but also ordinary observers, people who might not be educated or prepared to accept solutions developed and approved by specialists. This suggest how responsible and complex is the process of conservation- restoration, giving to conservator- restorer the role of the substance’s advocate- the one who chooses how the artifact ‘speaks’ to the viewer and what are the values through which the artifact ‘mediates’ between now and then, here and there or the visible and not-visible-anymore, to refer to Pomian’s words. At the same time conservator- restorer is aware more than other perceivers that there are features which inevitably change in the course of time and it is not possible stop or deny this simple fact. Moreover, time-changed features have been acknowledged to be values themselves2, being integral part of an artifact, something that should not be omitted or neglected during condition estimation and conservation- restoration planning.

Retouch as a legal stage of work

3Retouch as a stage of treatment is a specific process. This is one of last things to be done in artifact’s substance, a process that might but doesn't have to be run, therefore arguable and controversial as seemingly not necessary to complete the conservation- restoration. Retouching is one of the most visible parts of conservator- restorer's work. Execution of retouch should be based on his sense of ethics and is always an emanation of the philosophy of work. Distinctive feature of retouch is that it's dependant on individual intuition which is a factor impossible to compare or analyse. That demonstrates retouch is a process of a non- objective nature so it cannot be subjected to unambiguous evaluation.

  • 3  There was published one monograph about retouch of paper- based artifacts in 2008, Poulsson T. G., (...)

4There are not many publications about issues concerning retouch3. The other problem is that in the course of conservation- restoration studies retouch is rarely a separate subject of lecture or exercise. It seems retouch is far more present in practice than in theory. While it’s common to finish restoration works with retouching, in most reports it’s rather mentioned than broadly described.

Aesthetics

5Aesthetic consideration of conservation- restoration is usually referred to the process of restoration because this is a stage of work when all the modifications in artifact’s image become most apparent. Nevertheless it’s just the final of the process of conservator’s aesthetic judgment that started in the moment of first sight of the image. The author would like to consider conservation- restoration as a type of aesthetic situation where the artifact is an aesthetic object and the conservator is an aesthetic subject. In a model aesthetic situation the subject perceives the object and judges it basing on impressions filtered by his or her mind. The difficulty of the judgment for a conservator- restorer is a result of the necessity of permanent reevaluation of the judgment which is determined by decision making process that finally influences the image.

6 The artifact is not always a masterpiece. It might be an object of a different nature (a product of craft or an archival document) so its character may be aesthetically considered as boundary, e.g. a poster’s character can be located between a piece of art and a product of craft. It seems that because the conservation- restoration is lied to aesthetics inasmuch as to ethics, there shouldn’t occur any differentiation in attitude to the objects of art and non- art artifacts. In ideal situation every artifact should be treated by a conservator- restorer as a piece of art (meaning the thing value of which is unquestionable), no matter how it is appreciated by the society.

  • 4  Gołaszewska M., Zarys estetyki, Warszawa, PIW 1984,  p. 299-307

7 The other issue which may occur is that the conservator- restorer, when working permanently with different artifacts, may get ‘used to’ this special kind of heritage substance which is called ‘habitual experience’4. This is a kind of a boundary aesthetic experience which is common among people that work with artifacts in everyday practice. It may largely influence their sense of aesthetics and, in a way the ethics, as they perceive artifacts differently from others. It requires from a conservator- restorer the ability of phenomenological reduction which is one of the basics in the modern theory of conservation- restoration.

8Tratteggio may be considered as the discovery of the modern theory of conservation- restoration as it was invented according to its guidelines, based on phenomenology and Gestalt philosophy. In this theory the object of art is a sovereign being independent from the reality and completed in its perfection. Independence of this phenomenon excludes the material aspect from its real nature. Creation is a completed action, therefore the activity of a conservator- restorer cannot be creative or imitative in relation to the artist’s work. Nevertheless, in Gestalt the nature of an artifact is described not only by its ‘pristine’ state (in which it was ‘released’ from the artist’s workshop) but also by the later ‘life’ of the artifact. As the substance of the artifact is an example of complete perfection the loss is a foreign body in its integrity.

9 The recognition of the artifact is intuitive. Brandi compares conservation to hermeneutics or the way of translation which implies a kind of openness of the process of conservation- restoration as a critical act, an interpretation of a potential unity of a damaged artifact. This proves how conservation- restoration finds its place in the post- modernistic culture, where all the narrations and aesthetic conceptions have been questioned and devaluated.

10 In this theory retouch becomes a must in the cases where the loss of the original substance is so extensive or disturbing that it makes it impossible to perceive the real nature of the artifact. At the same time retouch as an intervention should be easily recognizable to confirm its character of a factor of a potential unity. The invention of tratteggio was the solution enabling to avoid the use of hypothesis to replace the missing parts of the original.

Ethics

11Ethical guidelines, embedded in the international documents, define the authenticity of an artifact as its most important and distinctive feature. In The Venice Charter (1964) it was stated for the first time that the process of restoration finishes when hypothesis begins. The other documents, e.g. The Burra Charter (1979), The Declaration of Oaxaca (1993)and The Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) point out the social aspect of conservation- restoration. The Declaration of Oaxaca and The Nara Document take into consideration pluralism in cultural diversity, which relates the process of conservation- restoration to the post- modernistic idea of openness and fluctuant nature of aesthetic and social values of an artifact. In The Charter of Kraków (2000) the authenticity is considered as a subject of restoration and should be appropriated by the community. Conservation cannot be therefore an isolated science. The responsibility of the conservator may be defined on different levels: it stretches vertically to the different types of public and horizontally to the public in the course of time. The authenticity is bound both with historical and aesthetic values. Decision making in conservation- restoration should be preceded by the proper interpretation. The execution of retouch inevitably bases on intuition, nevertheless it should be discussed with the owner, curator, the artist (creator) and/or other conservator- restorer in order to achieve the most unambiguous attitude.

Tratteggio as a solution

  • 5  Detailed description of tratteggio and its derivativesmay be found in: Casazza O., Il restauro pit (...)

12Tratteggio (rigatino) is an image reintegration method invented and developed in 1945- 50 in Istituto Centrale del Restauro and was inspired by the modern theory of conservation- restoration of Cesare Brandi. Tratteggio as well as its derivativesis a transposition of a representation to the system of vertical lines that, viewed from the distance, form the colour (or pattern) that integrates the lacunae with the original. This kind of retouch rebuilds the image and makes it more legible being at the same time apparent and recognizable to the observer. The desired colour should be achieved by putting successively the layers of delicate (rather than intensive) colour vertical lines5.

13Selezione chromatica (selezione del colore, it. ‘chromatic selection’) is a Florentine variant of trattteggio, developed by Ornella Casazza and Umberto Baldini. In selezione the lines may not be vertical but directed according to the image composition. Chromatic selection means finding characteristic features (the elementary colours) of the desired hue and recomposing it by creating the impression of a colour that reintegrates the image. Colours in the chromatic selection are put in the layers that when superimposed one onto another work as transparent screens, forming the system of ‘filters’ that give the effect of unified colour.

14Another Florentine derivative of tratteggio is astrazione chromatica, developed by Ornella Casazza and Umberto Baldini after the flood in Florence in 1966. It was designed to treat the extensive losses in the painting Crucifixion by Cimabue that was seriously damaged in the flood. Astrazione was intended to be used in the situation when it’s not possible to reconstruct the original colour. The idea is based on the thesis that there might be a general neutral colour that matches to the whole image and provides reintegration and legibility of it. There are limited colours used for the realization of astrazione (primary colours and black). The lines are interweaving and form a vibrant screen of colour on the background.

Case study: a film poster by Stefan Norblin (1932) in colour lithography

  • 6 Grenda M., Badania nad zastosowaniem retuszu typu tratteggio w restauracji obiektów zabytkowych na (...)

15The author’s MA project was focused on conservation- restoration of the Polish film poster by Stefan Norblin (1932)6 in colour lithography. The artifact seemed to be a good material for the research concerning image reintegration. The poster was seriously damaged prior to conservation- restoration treatment. There were several abrasions of the paint layer and consistent lacunae forming figures perceived as a pattern superimposed onto the original image that was competitive to the original(ill. 1).

Fig.1 The poster for the film Bezimienni bohaterowie  (1932) before retouching

Fig.1 The poster for the film Bezimienni bohaterowie  (1932) before retouching

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

16The artifact itself is a big item and it was obvious that it would be observed from distance. The lacunae were located in the areas of different chromaticity and expression what gave the opportunity to examine wide range of colours and caused the necessity of inventing particular solutions for particular areas. One of the principles during the conservation- restoration was to reintroduce the exhibit function to the artifact and for that reason it was decided to reintegrate the image. It was stated there are three potential solutions: reconstruction, infills made of coloured paper pulp which is one of the most popular methods of image reintegration in conservation- restoration of paper- based artifacts and graphic retouch (tratteggio or its derivatives).

17The idea of reconstruction was rejected at the starting point of conservation- restoration planning. It was not the author’s intent to make an imitative retouch or facsimile as it would cause the risk of falsification. There were not found any rationales for the reconstruction. After extensive inquiry among curators of Polish collections it was concluded that the treated artifact is the only specimen of this Norblin’s poster and the reconstruction would be a kind of confabulation. The other argument against the reconstruction was the original handmade lettering, characteristic for Norblin.

18There was made a computer simulation of filling the losses with coloured paper pulp in Photoshop®. The colours were chosen with the Eyedropper Tool and if the chosen colour seemed too dark, there was chosen a similar one but of a brighter hue (with more white). The effect of simulation is shown on ill. 2.

Fig. 2 Digital simulation of image reintegration with coloured paper pulp

Fig. 2 Digital simulation of image reintegration with coloured paper pulp

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

19In this picture it is quite apparent that in most cases the coloured paper pulp would do well when it comes to small losses, nevertheless the results are not that satisfying for the larger ones. The least disturbing is an ‘infill’ near to the Norblin’s signature (left edge, mid- height, greenish colour). The ‘infill’ of the policeman’s cap is less acceptable. In this lacuna there should meet three colours: yellow, blue and rose. For the simulation the yellow was used as the brightest of all three that surround the loss and the least aggressive in relation to vast orange area of the background. The most unsuccessful is the ‘infill’ in the area of inscription as it breaks the continuity of the announcement, furthermore it is most visible because the inscription consists of white lettering on almost black background which forms a strongest contrast in the whole image.

20It was decided to use the retouch based on tratteggio to reintegrate the image without falsification. The technique of the original (colour lithography) was another argument for using this kind of retouch because in this technique the colours are achieved by successive superimposing the layers of paint just as in tratteggio and selezione del colore. Because of the dynamic expression of the composition it was decided to use selezione del colore which enables to adjust the lines to the direction of composition lines. The final effect of retouch is shown on ill. 10. The details are shown on ill. 3- 9.

Fig. 3 Before retouching

Fig. 3 Before retouching

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 4 Detail of tratteggio, after putting three layers of lines

Fig. 4 Detail of tratteggio, after putting three layers of lines

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 5 Detail of tratteggio, final stage

Fig. 5 Detail of tratteggio, final stage

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 6 Before retouching

Fig. 6 Before retouching

 Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 7 Detail of tratteggio

Fig. 7 Detail of tratteggio

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 8 The area of inscription before retouching

Fig. 8 The area of inscription before retouching

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 9 Detail of tratteggio in the area of inscription

Fig. 9 Detail of tratteggio in the area of inscription

The retouch is easily detectable from close distance working successfully as the reintegration method of the image viewed from the distance of a few steps.

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Fig. 10 The poster after retouching. Viewed from distance the artifact’s image may seem even reconstructed

Fig. 10 The poster after retouching. Viewed from distance the artifact’s image may seem even reconstructed

The previous pictures of tratteggio details prove that retouch here is easily detectable and apparent when observed at close range. At the same time, as an image reintegration method for the whole it’s not competitive nor ambiguous for the viewer’s perception.

Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda

Conclusion

21The aim of the article was to put on notice the phenomenon of retouch and image reintegration as the finishing process of conservation- restoration, settling the final image of the artifact. Image reintegration, particularly in the conservation- restoration of paper- based artifacts is a problem which has to be faced from the very beginning of treatment when the influence of the conservator- restorer might be already apparent and deciding. This is why it’s so important for a paper conservator to be aware of his perceptual background and skills and the possibility to develop them through careful observation of the artifacts. The fact that choosing the method of image reintegration depends on intuition does not disqualify retouch from the ethical point of view. The decision- making should be based on deep reflection concerning aims and legitimacy of conservation- restoration treatment. The choice of a solution always depends on the type of the artifact and the type of the damage. The author’s choice of using ‘trattteggio- treatment’ of that character and extent used on paper- based artifact was an experience without any precedent example that might have been followed (the author has not come across such an example).

22That is why the author’s reflection is that there is a strong need for discussion about image reintegration and retouch, particularly in the field of conservation- restoration of paper- based artifacts, among the conservators themselves as well as specialists from different fields relating to art- the artists, art historians and curators.

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Notes

1 Pomian K., Historia. Nauka wobec pamięci, Lublin, Wydawnictwo UMCS, 2006 (translation by the author). This quote reminds of Riegl’s: (...) we include therein another view as well: that everything that once was can never be again.(The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Essence and Its Development, [in:] Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage, Los Angeles 1996, trans. K. Bruckner, K. Williams, p. 69- 83)

2  Which refer to the term of authenticity, see paragraph 4. in this article

3  There was published one monograph about retouch of paper- based artifacts in 2008, Poulsson T. G., Retouching of Art on Paper, Archetype Publications, London 2008

4  Gołaszewska M., Zarys estetyki, Warszawa, PIW 1984,  p. 299-307

5  Detailed description of tratteggio and its derivativesmay be found in: Casazza O., Il restauro pittorico, Firenze, Nardni Editore 2007

6 Grenda M., Badania nad zastosowaniem retuszu typu tratteggio w restauracji obiektów zabytkowych na podłożu papierowym, MA thesis at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, promoter: Dr Weronika Liszewska, Warszawa 2010

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig.1 The poster for the film Bezimienni bohaterowie  (1932) before retouching
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k
Titre Fig. 2 Digital simulation of image reintegration with coloured paper pulp
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k
Titre Fig. 3 Before retouching
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Titre Fig. 4 Detail of tratteggio, after putting three layers of lines
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre Fig. 5 Detail of tratteggio, final stage
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre Fig. 6 Before retouching
Crédits  Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre Fig. 7 Detail of tratteggio
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre Fig. 8 The area of inscription before retouching
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,0k
Titre Fig. 9 Detail of tratteggio in the area of inscription
Légende The retouch is easily detectable from close distance working successfully as the reintegration method of the image viewed from the distance of a few steps.
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Titre Fig. 10 The poster after retouching. Viewed from distance the artifact’s image may seem even reconstructed
Légende The previous pictures of tratteggio details prove that retouch here is easily detectable and apparent when observed at close range. At the same time, as an image reintegration method for the whole it’s not competitive nor ambiguous for the viewer’s perception.
Crédits Photo credit: Magdalena Grenda
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1700/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k
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Référence électronique

Magdalena Grenda, « Tratteggio retouch and its derivatives as an image reintegration solution in the process of restoration », CeROArt [En ligne], 1 | 2010, mis en ligne le 18 novembre 2010, consulté le 30 mars 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/1700

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Auteur

Magdalena Grenda

Magdalena Grenda is paper conservator-restorer, MA graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, at the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art of AFA. Currently employed in Warsaw Rising Museum.

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CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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