Retouching Medieval Sculptures in Norwegian Churches: Fifty Years of Practical Work and Written Reports

Karen Mengshoel, Nina Kjølsen Jernæs


The focus of this article is retouching of medieval sculptures in Norwegian churches. Our aim is to discuss past and current practices by analysing conser-vation treatment reports. We study the reasoning behind the decision making to the extent the information is available in the reports, and assess the reports as source material. To form a background for the discussions, we review rele-vant literature on history of retouching. We study conservation treatment re-ports in the period from c. 1970 to date and we have a data set consisting of 65 reports. Our results show that over half of the reports include decision making for retouching the artwork. The data set also shows changes through time in retouching techniques and methods. We discuss the reasons for differences in past and present practises after registering changes in conservation ideology and the development of the conservation training. Discrepancies between writ-ten retouching theories and conservation practices are assessed. The article also discusses conservation reports as source material. Since we have studied prac-tices within our own institution, objectivity is a part of the discussion, along with possible future projects that may follow from this research. In conclusion the conservation treatment reports reflect changes in conservation education, the profession’s ethics, retouching methodology and decision making. The re-ports give us descriptive information about the objects and their condition, but the chosen retouching procedure is often coloured by the individual conserva-tor’s values and perspectives. The material, which spans almost fifty years, clearly mirrors the tendencies in the methodology of visual reintegration.



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ISSN 2387-6700

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