“I had heard the tale and knew what to expect, but it was by far the most damaged painting I had seen. When it arrived, it came into the studio and the damage was almost all that you could see.”
In 2017 Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman-Ochre returned to the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) more than 30 years after it had been stolen off the gallery walls. Because the theft and subsequent treatment of the work had caused significant damage, the UAMA enlisted the Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute to help repair the painting. When the work arrived at the Getty in 2019, the damage was so extreme that it was all paintings conservator Laura Rivers could see; prominent cracks and flaking paint obscured the artwork itself. Rivers worked alongside her colleague Douglas MacLennan, a conservation scientist who used advanced analytic methods like X-ray fluorescence and microfade testing to inform their conservation work. The results of their multi-year collaboration are finally on view in the exhibition Conserving de Kooning: Theft and Recovery.
In this episode, Getty Museum conservator Laura Rivers and Getty Conservation Institute scientist Douglas MacLennan discuss their work conserving Woman-Ochre, which is on display at the Getty Center through August 28, 2022.
“There’s been an assumption that any person who stepped foot on French territory in the metropole went free. In fact, enslaved Turks did not go free; they often spent their entire lifetime in servitude.”
Since the Middle Ages, France’s legal tradition as a “Free Soil” state meant that any enslaved person who stepped foot in Continental France would be freed. This led to the widespread misconception that there were no slaves in France after the 14th century. However, galley slavery was still a common and even glorified practice centuries later during the reign of Louis XIV. These people, called turcs or Turks, were often Muslim men who had been captured or purchased. Representations of galley slaves adorned paintings, artillery, medals, and other objects, and were used to express the king’s power.
In this episode, art historian Meredith Martin and historian Gillian Weiss discuss their multidisciplinary study of 17th-century galley slavery and its depictions under Louis XIV. They are authors of the recent book The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV’s France from Getty Publications.