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Newsletter | June 2022

The heat has arrived in Madrid in every sense. Temperatures soar, projects multiply, the recording of surface is generating more excitement than ever; one discovery or revelation follows another. I spent a day in Oxford with John Barrett looking at the amazing work he is doing with the new Photometric Stereo scanner. The focus of the work at ARCHiOx has been on the Rawlinson collection of copper plates. The results on the front of the copper plates reveal every incision and variation in the surface as the engraver creates images with extraordinary manual skill. But the backs can tell a very different story of informal experimentation and playful doodles.

An image mixing 3D and Colour data, recorded
with the Selene Photometric Stereo system 
as part of the ongoing research by John Barrett © ARCHiOx

An 8th-century manuscript on parchment was also recorded with the Selene, revealing marginal notations indented into the sheet's surface; an ukiyo-e print showed that the Japanese printmaker was producing embossed textures to change the character of the blacks. This engagement with the subtle details of surface information is bringing new insights into focus revealing both the intuitive and trained sensibilities of previous generations of artists and craftsmen skilled in visual mediation. The merging of Art, Science and Technology is transforming our understanding of the ways in which ideas take form…and are shared.

After 21 years of working in Egypt, Factum Foundation have offered to donate the restored Hall of Beauties from the tomb of Seti I and a VR experience of the burial chamber of the Tomb of Tutankhamun to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, to be shown at the Grand Egyptian Museum as an example of the virtual and physical roles that digital technology can play in preservation.  

‘Avoiding Oblivion’ at Masterpiece [Re]discoverystarting June 30th, is another unusual and beautifully designed exhibition, once again in collaboration with Skene Catling de la Peña
. It is based around a group of watercolours, made by Howard Carter in the early 1900s, and 51 vintage prints of Harry Burton’s photographs documenting the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. It will also include historical books and images that put the interest in hieroglyphs and Pharaonic culture within the context of 500 years of discovery and the different approaches to preservation that have shaped the way the Valley of the Kings looks today.

We are opening the first 3D recording studio in the heart of St James's, London. We hope that bringing Factum’s approach and technology to the heart of London will reveal, for the first time, the potential held within the surface of paintings, sculptures, prints and objects.
Creating a link between Factum and Colnaghi, both Spanish companies and foundations, will result in the first studio in London offering high-resolution surface recording of works of art, revealing more than the eye can see. The first painting to be recorded in the studio is probably by Orazio Gentileschi.

The collaboration started last year with the complete recording of a painting that appears to be by Caravaggio….history of art has not looked this exciting since the arrival of infra-red revealed underdrawings and

From Oxford to Foumban via Rome, Alexandria and Oulu, things are moving fast

Mapping the surface of a map (again)
The Selene Scanner recording the Gough Map
© Bodleian Libraries
The Gough Map is a mid-14th century map of the British Isles, formerly and mistakenly regarded as the earliest road map of the country. A Leverhulme-funded research project is considering its date, development, authorship and function.

The repetition of the recording process at four times the resolution of the previous scan, will hopefully provide answers to some of the hypotheses that were raised by the surface and colour recording done 7 years ago. Images taken in early June have revealed more information about the pouncing marks, creases and historic repairs which will inform new analysis.

Factum Foundation first recorded the Gough Map in 2015 in collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries using the Lucida 3D Scanner, but ARCHiOx has now recorded it using the Selene Photometric Stereo System.
Detail of the shaded render showing the illuminated word ‘Eboriens’
- a Latinised version of 'York'. Pouncing marks are also clearly visible
© Bodleian Libraries
Two digital restoration research projects
Detail of the bottom section of the Young Knight in a Landscape
showing the before and after of the digital restoration experiment
© Factum Foundation
Factum Foundation recently recorded the Young Knight in a Landscape (1510) by Vittore Carpaccio at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemitza in Madrid, using the Lucida 3D Scanner and composite photography to obtain accurate 3D surface information and colour.

The painting, one of the most celebrated works in the museum’s collection, underwent a cleaning and restoration process and was recently part of several initiatives revolving around the complex narrative created by the Venetian painter.

Botanologist Eduardo Barba recently worked with Factum Foundation to propose a digital restoration, made by Eduardo Lopez, of the colour of the yellow irises on the bottom left side of the painting.  The opacity and colour of the pigment has been lost due to oxidisation and previous restoration attempts. Digital restoration using non-contact technology was able to reveal new layers of information without imposing on the original. As the yellow irises reappear, the spatial complexity is transformed.
Marks on the shaded render of a detail
from the Crucifixion © Museo Catharijneconvent

Another high-resolution recording and digital restoration initiative is moving to its next phase, with the creation of two physical facsimiles of the Crucifixion painted in ca. 1425 by the Master of the Lindau Lamentation

The Crucifixion was recorded in 2021 in the Museum Catharijneconvent and is currently the subject of a conservation debate. The background is thought to be an overpaint of blue azurite over an original gilt surface.

A grant by the Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science has allowed academics Liselore Tissen and Sanne Frequin to use Factum’s non-contact technology to re-think this important painting using digital restoration. Experiencing the physical facsimiles in different settings (candle light in a church or museum environment), supported by data from new eye-tracking technology, will inform final decisions about the physical restoration of the panel.

Soon on show at the British Museum
The Lucida 3D Scanner recording the panel
© Factum Foundation

After the recording of the two monumental lamassu in 2004 and panels from the Throne-room of Ashurnasirpal II, a team from Factum Foundation travelled again to the Middle East Department of the British Museum to record in high-resolution the Neo-Assyrian relief (BM n.124928) depicting the Assyrian capture of a fortress in Egypt. This gypsum panel, excavated from Nineveh and acquired by the Museum in the 19th century, was part of the low-relief decoration of the palace of King Ashurbanipal. 

Ahead of the loan of the original panel to the exhibition 'Pharaoh of the Two Lands. The African Story of the Kings of Napata' at the Musée du Louvre (28 April – 25 July, 2022), Factum Foundation worked with the British Museum on the recording and the making of a facsimile.

The high-resolution recording was carried out at the beginning of April 2022 by Celestia Anstruther and Gabriel Scarpa, using the Lucida 3D Scanner and composite photography to acquire accurate surface and colour information. A facsimile of the relief panel was produced for display inside the British Museum for the duration of the loan, and will soon be installed.

The final facsimile of the Neo-Assyrian relief
© Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Foundation
Opening of the Alok Visitor Centre
Installation view of 'The Ancient Rock Art of Nigeria'
© Ferdinand Saumarez Smith for Factum Foundation

In early July, Factum Foundation is returning to the Bakor region to set up a new visitor centre at the Alok Open Air Museum, generously supported by the Carène Foundation.

It will feature a permanent exhibition about the Bakor monoliths, including a 1:1 facsimile of a monolith from Ntitogo, the bottom half of which was recorded on-site in 2016, and the top half of which was recorded at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2018. At the same time, Factum will be returning another facsimile of a monolith known as 'Ebi Abu', today in the Musée du Quai Branly, to the village of Eting Nta. The project will be featured in a new exhibition on the monoliths at The British Museum opening on the 17th November 2022, and in an accompanying publication.

The next phase of work will involve comprehensive 3D documentation of all the carved monoliths in the region and site restoration work, with the aim of submitting the Bakor monoliths for consideration as a World Heritage Site.  
Factum will also be assisting the Trust for African Rock Art and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, on the installation of the second leg of the travelling exhibition 'The Ancient Rock Arts of Nigeria', which has moved from the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos to the National Museum Calabar. The exhibition opens on the July 1st and is supported by the US Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation.

Installation view of 'The Ancient Rock Art of Nigeria'
© Ferdinand Saumarez Smith for Factum Foundation
The first 'artist bell' is on show at the Royal Academy of Arts
Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022.  Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry

"I’ve always wanted to make a bell; it is one of the categories of objects that are traditional and potent. This bell I conceived as a memorial to the dead of the pandemic, it is covered in what looks like an aerial view of a multicultural cemetery. It also features a doctor and a patient. It could also be rung as a celebration that we have survived."
Grayson Perry

One year after the government’s decision to turn the Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a boutique hotel and despite huge protest, locally and nationally, the site on Whitechapel Road remains empty and looks increasingly run down.

The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (21 June – 21 August) will unveil Grayson Perry's Covid Bell: an elaborately decorated bronze bell, made during the pandemic to mark this unprecedented period whilst celebrating London's great bells and their long history in marking time, mourning death and celebrating life. Members of the public visiting the Summer Exhibition will be invited to ring the Covid Bell.

Factum Foundation worked with Re-Form and other heritage organisations to prove the viability of a new approach to bell making which sought to continue and preserve historical bell making skills while bringing new technologies, and commissioning world-renowned artists to make editions of bells.

This work marks the start of the revival of bell making in the UK, and represents the first 'Art-Bell' made with the newly formed London Bell Foundry.

Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21 June – 21 August 2022.  Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry
A second and a third  ‘artist bell’ editons will be made by Paula Crown and Conrad Shawcross. A film about traditional bell casting is about to start shooting: Luke Tchalenko will film Nigel Taylor. As former Tower Bell Manager at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry for 40 years, Nigel is one of the very few people who have worked on every stage of bell making.  The Covid Bell was commissioned and fabricated by Factum Arte, cast by Pangolin Foundry in Gloucestershire and tuned by Nigel Taylor working with Nicholson Engineering in Dorset. It weighs almost 400kgs.
A new edition of ARCHiVe Online Academy has been announced for Autumn 2022.
You can register (classes are free!) here.
Over the past month, representatives from Factum Foundation have been working with different organisations to share our approach to the preservation of cultural heritage. Carlos Bayod Lucini, Project Director at Factum Foundation, participated at the XIX International Congress of Architectural Graphic Expression in Cartagena (June 3rd), and held the first class of ARCHiVe Online Academy 2022 (June 14th).

Adam Lowe, founder of Factum Foundation, was also invited to participate as a guest speaker at SITSA, Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art in Boston, organised by Harvard Art Museums, at the end of a 4-hour workshop taught by Carlos Bayod. 

More talks are planned in July at Fundación Amigos Museo del Prado, Masterpice [Re]discovery and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. 

Factum Foundation's work is praised by many institutions and individuals for its transparency and its capacity to deliver.

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