Highlights of Lenbach's Collection II: Crucifix and 3D-Reconstruction




Fig. 5: Colour scheme before adjustment
Fig. 6: Colour scheme after adjustment
Fig. 7: Colour scheme before surface cleaning
Fig. 8: Colour scheme after surface cleaning
Fig. 9: 3-D-Print
Fig. 10: Model 1
Fig. 11: Model 2

Restoration and presentation
in the historic rooms of the Lenbachhaus
starting in July 2015

Over the course of his lifetime, Franz von Lenbach built a sizable collection of objects and works of art that served to embellish his studio and villa. At regular intervals, the museum mounts presentations of eminent individual objects from these holdings. Starting in July 2015, the villa’s historic rooms will host the debut presentation of a life-size crucifix that was at the center of the Lenbachhaus’s art conservation efforts in 2014–15. (Crucifix, Southern Germany or Tyrol, late 15th century. From Lenbach's collections, L 402b)

With its expressive intensity, clear formal vocabulary, and richly nuanced carving, this singular sculpture ranks among the most significant examples of late-medieval representations of the crucifixion in southern Germany and Tyrol.

The work bears the traces of an eventful history: the first installation was inside a church; it was subsequently installed outdoors before being sold to an art dealer and eventually entered the Lenbach’s collection (Fig. 1).

The history of this work is evident in the sculpture’s present day appearance. Most of the colorful original appearance of polychrome has been lost along with various additional layers of paint when the piece was restored several times. Large areas of the wooden substrate lie exposed, revealing the exquisite woodcarver’s craftsmanship. The carved wooden surface now dominates rather than the original painted surface from its past (Fig. 3, 4).

Dirt and grime, fragments of paint, and structurally weak wooden parts made conservation a pressing concern. The conservation treatment also created an opportunity to investigate how the object’s appearance had changed over time. The Lenbachhaus’s conservators began by stabilizing the fragile object in its current state: They consolidated all paint residues and weak wooden areas (Fig. 5, 6).

Cleaning the entire surface allowed the remaining paint fragments to be seen more clearly, which offer valuable indication as to the object’s history and the evidence of its original polychromed surface (Fig. 5, 6).

Close examination of the paint fragments revealed that the crucifix was repainted three times at different points in its history (Fig. 2). Each paint campaign applied a different color scheme; the final campaign diverged considerably from the original polychrome. In order to reconstruct the crucifix and visualize the lost color schemes, cutting-edge 3-D technology was employed for the first time for the Lenbachhaus. The resulting presentation enables visitors to compare the original object and the reconstructions side by side. In collaboration with Prof. Joerg Maxzin and Gerd Brändlein of the Deggendorf Institute of Technology, the sculpture was scanned and parts - fingers and toes - were reconstructed in the virtual model, thus producing two reduced-size scale models using a 3-D printer (Fig. 9).

The findings of the examination of the object allowed conservators to recreate all the steps: priming, gilding, and painting on the 3-D models. Model 1 shows the original late-medieval polychrome; Model 2 illustrates the result of the third and final repainting (Fig.10, 11).

Both models represent approximations to the objects past appearance and the conspicuous differences between them highlight the significance that color played as a design element in sculpture – an element that is in many cases altered by time or entirely lost.