Navigation – Plan du site
Portrait de Maître

Tribute to Roger H. Marijnissen

The fox and the carp
Muriel Verbeeck
Cet article est une traduction de :
Hommage à Roger H. Marijnissen

Texte intégral

There is only one valid authority when it comes to expertise and conservation, namely that of the works. Quite simply because in the end it is the works that are right.

Roger Marijnissen

I would like to thank Joyce Stoner for valuable comments and for editing this English translation.

A few biographical milestones

  • 1  Oscar Wilde, Isobel Murray, The Major Works, The decay of lying, p.233

1Roger Marijnissen was born in Ghent in 1923. He was an open-minded and curious child, but suffered from a major disability from childhood, losing the sight in his right eye following a serious ulcer. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing, wrote Oscar Wilde. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty1. Armed with this conviction and passion, Roger Marijnissen began to study the history of art and in 1948 dedicated his final dissertation to the Patronage of Philip II. Exploring Spanish archives offered him little satisfaction, in contrast to an optional course in the Technical aspect of visual arts, taught by a recently appointed lecturer named Paul Coremans. It was this lecturer whom he chose as his dissertation mentor and whose inspiration led Marijnissen to become involved in the campaign to restore L'Agneau Mystique (The Lamb of God)and the ensuing publication.

2In 1958, he joined the Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique (IRPA - Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage) in Brussels as Assistant Director, responsible for the Conservation Department, under the leadership of Paul Coremans. A misunderstanding regarding the job description soon resulted in relations between the two men becoming tense and finally breaking down. Coremans died in 1965, and Roger Marijnissen defended his dissertation in 1966. His dissertation study evolved into a publication with an original and innovative approach to content and method: Dégradation, conservation, restauration de l'œuvre d'art, (Degradation, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art) published in Brussels by Editions Arcade in 1967. The work was soon sold out and remains a benchmark in the fields of art and conservation: it can be found in the greatest libraries in the world and the best research centres on every continent.

Fig.1 Roger Marijnissen

Fig.1 Roger Marijnissen

Portrait during a dedication, 2014

Crédit: R.Marijnissen

3Roger Marijnissen's position at IRPA permitted him to devote himself entirely to research. He dedicated himself to studying the Flemish Masters, and the publication of his works on Jerôme Bosch and Bruegel earned him international renown – renown based on a level of expertise that the most eminent specialists still recognise today. He also dedicated himself to detecting fakes, combining the expertise of his connoisseurship with a scientific approach. In 1970, he became a member of the "Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten" (Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts).

4Roger Marijnissen demonstrated an indefatigable level of activity, writing articles for the scientific and lay communities, working on projects and attending conferences and symposia abroad (Japan, Sweden, USSR, USA, Canada, Italy and Germany). His uncompromising approach to works of art, in the sense that a lover can be uncompromising in the esteem shown to his loved one, is undoubtedly one of the keys to understanding some of his forceful positions. These positions led to a certain amount of animosity towards him, which continued as long as his reputation.

5Roger Marijnissen is still working today. Although he retired in 1988, he has never stopped reading, writing, and communicating, publishing articles for many different audiences, from scientific works to philosophical essays, via autobiographical stories and art criticism. In 2011, he donated his impressive library and his archives to the Museum of Ghent. He was involved as an observer in the new campaign to conserve and restore The Lamb of God.

Fig. 2 The Marijnissen archives at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ghent

Fig. 2 The Marijnissen archives at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ghent

The author and the MSK (Museum voor Schone Kunsten - Museum of Fine Art) team in 2012.

Crédit: MSK

Person and persona

  • 2  R.-H. MARIJNISSEN, "L’erreur, la faute, le faux : vers une éthique du respect et de la responsabil (...)

6Although I read Roger Marijnissen (or should I say "THE Marijnissen"?) several decades ago, when I first started teaching Conservation-Restoration, I did not meet him until 2007, for an "électron libre" interview for the magazine CeROArt2. It was a memorable meeting, a rewarding exchange, and an initial opportunity to get to know the person behind the persona.

7Roger Marijnissen? Someone who dedicated his work Daroema's Taô, illustrated by Jan Fabre, to me with these words, "For Muriel Verbeeck, this Chinese text translated by a translator who does not speak Chinese. What's more, this Chinese text does not exist." Or the man from whom I received best wishes, signed with his right foot, so it is stated (by hand). A Flemish man living in Wallonia, who reads Montaigne and breeds geese, and whose wedding gift to his wife was a superb Victorian birdcage…

8Roger Marijnissen is also the child whose father used to take him to the Museum of Ghent on free admission days, who took from these precious moments an inextinguishable thirst for learning and knowing; this tall adolescent who bought his first book in 1941 and still showed it with emotion on the day he presented 3,000 works to the library in the Museum of Ghent; a lover and an enthusiast, who pays scant attention to respectability and the world when it comes to defending his Love, the Works whose fragility he feels acutely; add to that an exceptional level of culture, an undeniable intelligence and a caustic, if not vicious sense of humour. Roger Marijnissen has never been a fan of the “inner circle”, and has done nothing to overcome this handicap – if indeed it is one.

Reynard the Fox, Renart le Renard.

9Roger Marijnissen was once asked which character from fiction was most like him, and his answer was Reynard, the character from the story "Le roman de Renart". It is revealing that he chose this mediaeval, malicious, and sometimes facetious incarnation, who is above all profoundly critical of the establishment, churches, and chapels. Renart the Cunning, Renart the Hypocrite as he would later be described by Ruteboeuf, plays irreverent tricks and is finally excommunicated. This is more than merely a metaphor, as the conflict between Roger Marijnissen and Paul Coremans at IRPA went well beyond the story in the fable, and there was no forgiveness or absolution. We can regret or simply ignore this fact, and just consider what remains – the acts and the works.

The Koi

10And yet... if we had to visit the bestiary to find an incarnation other than the Fox, it would perhaps be the carp. Not, I hasten to clarify, because of its western reputation of being mute, but for the eastern symbolism conferred upon the Koi. Japan and China consider the Koi to be strong and courageous, because it swims up rivers against the current, even in the Yellow River. Roger Marijnissen showed no hesitation in doing likewise: uneasy in the peaceful canals of Belgium and public office, and in the meandering rivers, he often chose to go against the tide and raise the dams in order to defend the positions close to his heart.

11But Koi carp also demonstrate stamina: how better to illustrate the uninterrupted learned and brilliant scientific output of Roger Marijnissen, whose bibliography spans 50 years and includes a number of translations in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, and Russian?

12Finally, in the East, Koi also symbolise the serenity that comes with age and are known for their longevity. Roger Marijnissen has just celebrated his 92nd birthday and is still in good form.

Portrait of a Master

  • 3  Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage, edited by Nicholas S (...)

13In this first part of the volume, in addition to introducing the author, we have put together his entire bibliography. As an introduction to the partial re-publication of Dégradation, conservation, restauration de l'œuvre d'art, with the authorisation of the Getty Conservation Institute, we have re-edited the English translation of the introductory text published in 19963. We have attached to these documents Éric de Bruyn's 2013 interview with the author.

Mélanges, this mirror

14The idea for this volume of Mélanges arose during the project to re-edit the historical part of Dégradation, conservation, restauration de l’œuvre d’art and the lexicon of conservation (French-Dutch-English-German) which formed part of it.

15We are living in a prolific era in which the profession of conservation-restoration is becoming more autonomous and more recognized every day. The ICOM-CC group has become the largest in ICOM. A large body of literature is published every year as a result of all the symposia and study days. But in the history as well as the theory of restoration, the explosion of knowledge sometimes leads us to lose sight of the very meaning of the word "review". From an educational point of view, it remains important for training to include serious works, particularly when they are of historical importance.

16This re-editing project was well received, and in the wake of this we wanted to grant the author, who allowed the Open Access publication of his text, the awareness and recognition of the scientific community. We are proud to present the contributions of researchers and practitioners from the international community, who responded enthusiastically to this invitation. Their responses have a particular value: they applaud an authority one or even two generations removed, but one that has remained outside any institutional framework for more than 25 years. This is then, in the noble sense of the word, gratitude and recognition rather than just a tribute. I would like to thank everyone involved.

17With free rein to express their authorial freedom, the contributors, echoing the concerns of Roger Marijnissen, freely portrayed his preferred fields: the historiography and history of restoration, first and foremost, for Mireille te Marvelde and Joyce Hill Stoner - two remarkably documented review articles that will undoubtedly become reference works; Ségolène Bergeon Langle and Georges Brunel discussed ethics, and in their articles we find themes dear to Marijnissen, namely doubt, humility, and the importance of values. In a slightly iconoclastic text, Salvador Munoz-Vinas discusses the fortunes of Brandi, who is often quoted, particularly in Brussels, where Paul Philippot made a major contribution to popularising the ideas of "Il Maestro". His freedom of expression will no doubt provoke reflection in the same way that Roger Marijnissen did on other subjects in his day.

18Isabelle Brajer takes a practical look at retouching and non-intervention, adding a modern take on an issue dear to the author. Let's not forget that R. Marijnissen carried out restoration work for a while, but only as a "curator". Maximilan Martens and Anne Van Grevenstein contributed two texts on L'Agneau Mystique to this volume of aknowledgements They both still work with Roger Marijnissen on the committee overseeing the current campaign

19Marie Berducou chose a personal evocation of the works that left their mark on her career, and although Dégradation, conservation was part of her compulsory reading, she explains how the author triggered her thoughts on conservation. Véronique Sorano-Stedman described the current problems inherent in the work of a restorer and the dangers lying in wait in a changing society that commoditises goods, including cultural goods, and services. This is a problem that was often condemned by Roger Marijnissen. Willem Elias chose to retrace the author's important role in educating people about art and museums.

20Ursula Shädler-Saub speaks about the conservation of historic architectural items: this is an opportunity to evoke one of Roger Marijnissen's other interests, training and its development, including the development of attitudes in Germany. Dominique Vanwijnsberghe dedicated a learned article to the Antiphonary of Oosteeklo. A thorough method, a sharp analysis, clarity, and style are the qualities appreciated by Roger Marijnissen and are amply illustrated here. It is easy to understand the mutual respect the two authors have for each other. Finally, Léopold Kockaert, a former colleague of Roger Marijnissen’s at the IRPA, talks about the re-attribution of Bruegel's Fall of Icarus. His text, originally presented to our magazine as a "right to reply" to a previously published article, is an interpretation, meant to lead to dialectics rather than polemics.

21This volume of Mélanges can be considered a mirror, reflecting history, ethics, reflections on techniques and technologies, and challenges. It bears witness to the influence of Roger Marijnissen in all these areas, as well as to the topicality of certain issues and questions, some of which were asked by a young author almost 50 years ago. We are pleased to present him with this volume of gratitude, aknowledgements and tributes so that he can see the full extent of his legacy.

22It reflects his image, including in its paradoxes.

In pictures

Fig.3 Roger Marijnissen

Fig.3 Roger Marijnissen

Roger Marijnissen in his office at IRPA (ca. 1970s)

Crédit: R.Marijnissen

Fig. 4 Expertise in identifying fakes

Fig. 4 Expertise in identifying fakes

Roger Marijnissen and a fake Van der Weyden

Crédit: R.Marijnissen

Fig.5 Between restoration and forgery

Fig.5 Between restoration and forgery

A conference at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1986)

Crédit: CGI – R.Marijnissen

Fig.6 Roger Marijnissen et Ron Spronck

Fig.6 Roger Marijnissen et Ron Spronck

Meeting at the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Ghent, during the restoration of L'Agneau Mystique

Crédit: Ron Spronck

Fig.7 On the influence of Montaigne

Fig.7 On the influence of Montaigne

"Montaigne advised me to plant my cabbages. That's what I'm doing." (Roger Marijnissen, letter of 30 April 2011)

Crédit: R.Marijnissen

Fig. 8 Interview of Roger Marijnissen at MSK

Fig. 8 Interview of Roger Marijnissen at MSK

Interview to mark the donation of the library and archives.

Crédit: MSK

https://www.youtube.com/​watch?v=IbmgONSCQms

Haut de page

Notes

1  Oscar Wilde, Isobel Murray, The Major Works, The decay of lying, p.233

2  R.-H. MARIJNISSEN, "L’erreur, la faute, le faux : vers une éthique du respect et de la responsabilité." CeROArt [online], 3 | 2009, uploaded on 21 April 2009, consulted on 25 May 2015. URL: http://ceroart.revues.org/1176

3  Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage, edited by Nicholas Stanley Price, 
M. Kirby Talley Jr. and
Alessandra Melucco Vaccaro, Readings in Conservation Series, GCI,
1996, 275-280.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig.1 Roger Marijnissen
Légende Portrait during a dedication, 2014
Crédits Crédit: R.Marijnissen
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Fig. 2 The Marijnissen archives at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ghent
Légende The author and the MSK (Museum voor Schone Kunsten - Museum of Fine Art) team in 2012.
Crédits Crédit: MSK
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Fig.3 Roger Marijnissen
Légende Roger Marijnissen in his office at IRPA (ca. 1970s)
Crédits Crédit: R.Marijnissen
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M
Titre Fig. 4 Expertise in identifying fakes
Légende Roger Marijnissen and a fake Van der Weyden
Crédits Crédit: R.Marijnissen
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 280k
Titre Fig.5 Between restoration and forgery
Légende A conference at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1986)
Crédits Crédit: CGI – R.Marijnissen
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Fig.6 Roger Marijnissen et Ron Spronck
Légende Meeting at the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Ghent, during the restoration of L'Agneau Mystique
Crédits Crédit: Ron Spronck
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,7M
Titre Fig.7 On the influence of Montaigne
Légende "Montaigne advised me to plant my cabbages. That's what I'm doing." (Roger Marijnissen, letter of 30 April 2011)
Crédits Crédit: R.Marijnissen
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 388k
Titre Fig. 8 Interview of Roger Marijnissen at MSK
Légende Interview to mark the donation of the library and archives.
Crédits Crédit: MSK
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/4801/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 243k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Muriel Verbeeck, « Tribute to Roger H. Marijnissen », CeROArt [En ligne],  | Juin 2015, mis en ligne le 08 juin 2015, consulté le 29 mai 2016. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/4801

Haut de page

Auteur

Muriel Verbeeck

Historienne de formation, Docteur en Philosophie et Lettres et titulaire d'une licence spéciale en Sciences de l'information et de la communication, Muriel Verbeeck-Boutin est attachée scientifique à l'Université de Liège et professeur à l'École supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc de Liège, départment de Conservation, restauration des oeuvres d’Art. Elle y dispense les cours de Déontologie,  Histoire et Théories de la restauration. Elle donne occasionnellement cours à l'INP et a enseigné également à l'École supérieure d'Architecture de Wallonie, dans le cadre de la Formation européenne en restauration du patrimoine architectural.

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
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.

Haut de page
  • Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Les cahiers de Revues.org