STARC Research at the Getty

Friday, April 1, 2016

STARC research work on early paintings by Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614), widely known as El Greco, was the focus of a Getty Research Institute Grant awarded to Dr. Nikolas Bakirtzis. He was invited to be in residence as Guest Scholar at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, from April through June 2016, joining an international group of selected scholars working under the Getty Research Institute’s 2015-2016 theme ‘Art and Materiality’.

At the Getty, Dr. Bakirtzis further pursued aspects of his research and contributed to the Annual Scholars’ Symposium where he presented a paper with the title ‘Texture, Material, and Narrative in the Work of El Greco’. In his talk, he utilized the impressive results of the application of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) photography on a series of early works of El Greco, specifically works dating before his 1577 arrival in Spain, to address the development of the artists technique and use of the material qualities of color pigment to emphasize pictorial narrative. Led by STARC’s Imaging Center for Archaelogy and Cultural Heritage, the use of RTI on works like the Dormition of the Virgin (ca. 1565-66)), Saint Luke painting the Virgin (before 1567), the Baptism of Christ (ca.1567) and the View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery of Saint Catherine (ca.1570), among others, permitted Bakirtzis and Research Technical Specialist, Ropertos Georgiou, to offer an invaluable detailed analysis of the surface texture of El Greco’s art. RTI images offered new information about the materiality of Theotokopoulos’ technique and use of color pigment, thus pointing to the ways Greco developed as an artist between his work in Crete and subsequent move to Venice, estimated around 1567.[1]

The Getty, an international leader in Art History and Art Conservation research, was an ideal venue for the presentation and dissemination of STARC’s work in the use of advanced heritage science and technology for the study and preservation of works of art. In addition, these opportunities have provided the basis for future collaborative activities between the Getty and the Cyprus Institute that can enhance the advancement of Art Historical and Art Conservation research in the broader Eastern Mediterranean region.

[1]The application of RTI photography was possible with the generous support and collaboration of the institutions owning the specific works:  the Syros Metropolis and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, The Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion and the Benaki Museum in Athens.