Condition/Examination History

DEFINITION

An assessment of the overall physical condition, characteristics, and completeness of a work of art at a particular time. This includes examinations of the work under special conditions, such as ultraviolet light, but excludes interventions or treatments that alter the condition of a work, such as restoration or conservation.

SUBCATEGORIES


DESCRIPTION
TYPE
AGENT
DATE
PLACE
REMARKS
CITATIONS

DISCUSSION

The condition of a work of art may change over time; hence there may be been more than one assessment of it. When more than one condition evaluation or report is available, each should be described in a separate occurrence of this category. Subcategories should repeat as a group for each available assessment.

Important characteristics of a work's condition are specified using the subcategories CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY - TYPE, for the kind of examination; CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY - AGENT, for the name of the person who performed the examination; CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY - PLACE, for where the assessment was made; and CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY - DATE, for when the assessment was made. Notes about the assessment are recorded in CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY - REMARKS, and the source of information about the condition of an object is recorded in CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY - CITATIONS.

Condition assessments gleaned from historical sources may be divergent or be subject to interpretation. When available, an objective description of the current physical condition of a work should be included, based on observation or drawn from the documentation of a specialized examination. It should also include references to any available conservation-specific files containing detailed information.

Source

Observations on a work's condition may be found in both published and unpublished sources. Travelogues, diaries, letters, copies of the work, etc. may offer evidence of a work's condition at a particular time. Today, written reports of condition assessments are often produced by conservators at the repository, or at the request of the owner of the object or a dealer. Condition reports are also routinely made by museums and galleries before an object is loaned or exhibited, and during the course of an exhibition. A scholar may also make notes on the condition of a work of art when examining it for research purposes.

RELATIONSHIPS

A record of any conservation or restoration treatments an object has undergone is recorded in CONSERVATION/TREATMENT HISTORY. Written reports produced as a result of the assessment of the condition of a work of art are recorded in RELATED TEXTUAL REFERENCES. Images created to document the condition of a work at a particular time are recorded in RELATED VISUAL DOCUMENTATION. The materials and methods used to create an object are recorded in MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES. Specialized details about the manufacture of a work of art are recorded in FACTURE.

USES

A condition description or report makes it possible to assess the condition of the object in comparison to its original state. This may provide clues about the work's use or past history. Technical examinations may also supply further information about the dating of a work, or its creation. For example, underdrawing and underpainting may be visible with X-radiography or infrared reflectography. Also, since the use of particular materials and techniques changes over time, such analysis may be useful. The condition of a work may also provide clues to its creation, past use, or history of ownership. For example, a work once mounted in an album may show traces of glue or remains of the secondary support on its verso.

A work in poor condition may be difficult to consult. Access may be restricted or prohibited because of extreme fragility.

ACCESS

Information about the condition of an object may be used comparatively, within other defined parameters. A researcher may wish to compare the patterns of wear on a group of drawings, for example, to see if they may have been mounted or bound in the same way.


Condition/Examination History - Description

DEFINITION

Prose description of the overall physical condition, characteristics, and completeness of a work.

EXAMPLES

The marble is in stable condition...The resin coating...has discolored to this hue, and is deeper in tone and more opaque in the lower part of the sculpture, creating in essence, a 'black and white' sculpture. There is evidence of iron staining along the left and right edges of the relief.

...diagonal scratch near tip of cherub's wing p.r. side approx. 2¾" up from bottom edge; small circular nick in Madonna's knee, crescent-shaped scratch above and to the right of the angel's head in p.r. corner approx. 1" from top edge; slight nick in robe of Madonna's leg just above ankle; slight white nick on tunic of fleeing angle in upper p.l. corner (nick at waist approx. 3" down from top edge); slight brownish nick approx. ½" below Madonna's middle toe. Lower section of relief, esp. p.r., slightly more orange.[1]

Based upon comparison with others of the same model, it seems the chandelier was originally more profusely mounted with glass drops [Figure 4].

Surviving traces of pigment indicate that the sculpture was formerly brightly painted. There are channels carved between the upright wings, attesting to the original function of the sculpture as a support for a table [Figure 11].

DISCUSSION

This subcategory provides for a discussion of the physical condition of the work, such as observations of prior repairs or damaged areas. There may be multiple condition reports available for the object over time. This subcategory can also accommodate notes about the "completeness" of the object, and information about missing parts.

The conservation profession uses many technical and analytical processes to enhance understanding of an object. The results of these processes can sometimes be conveyed or summarized verbally, or in a written report; in other instances, the scholar will need to consult visual documentation, such as an X-ray or infrared reflectogram. Scholars may find it beneficial to know what tests and methods have been applied and what documents were produced, whether or not the records themselves are available.

Information about the condition of a work enables a researcher to understand its physical state at a particular time, and to compare this to its original state. It may provide insight into the appearance of the work in the past, thus explaining its critical reception at that time or why it might have been "restored." Technical documentation also records procedures undertaken by conservators or conservation scientists to gain information about an object's facture, condition, or history.

ACCESS

The author, date, and other information about the condition report should be indexed in other subcategories of CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY.


Condition/Examination History - Type

DEFINITION

The kind of examination made of the work's condition.

EXAMPLES

infrared light examination
raking light examination
microscopic examination
autoradiography
X-ray spectroscopy
visual examination

DISCUSSION

This subcategory identifies the type of examination made of the object, thus allowing the researcher to evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the condition assessment.

For historical assessments, the precise identification of the type of examination may not be known, other than visual examination which may be presumed.

USES

CONDITION/EXAMINATION - TYPE will be used to search for all examination procedures of a particular kind. For example, a researcher may wish to find all X-rays of works by a specific artist in order to study that artist's use of underdrawing.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Physical Activities, Processes and Techniques, and Tools and Equipment hierarchies.


Condition/Examination History - Agent

DEFINITION

The name of the individual who performed an assessment of the condition of the work, together with his or her role or title and institutional affiliation, if appropriate.

EXAMPLES

Peter Klein, Ordinariat für Holzbiologie, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Lisha Glinsman, conservation scientist, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Joseph V. Columbus, textile conservator, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Fra Pamarancio, clerk, Santa Maria Novella, Florence Italy

DISCUSSION

This category records the name and institutional affiliation of the person who examined an object. This affiliation does not have to be identical to the place where the examination took place. (The examiner often comes to the work of art rather than vice versa.)

While a full name should be available for modern examinations, the names of examiners who made condition assessments in the past may not be known.

Source

The name of the person who performed an examination can be drawn from the documentation of the examination of the work, which includes formal reports and unpublished material found in the files of museums and galleries.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of an authority file of personal and corporate names is recommended.


Condition/Examination History - Date

DEFINITION

The date when an examination took place, or when a work of art was known to have been in a particular condition.

EXAMPLES

Dec. 12, 1991
May 1970
before 1952
1993
between 1700 and 1798
by 1848 - ca. 1880
1940-1949
17th century
Christmas 1492
20 August 1542
Summer 1956

DISCUSSION

The date of a condition evaluation informs the researcher of the state of a work at a particular moment in its history, shedding light on what it looked like or how it may have been evaluated critically at that time.

Various levels of certainty will have to be accommodated in recording dates when the condition of an object was noted or examination of it was carried out. In most cases specific dates will be known for modern examinations, but historically, it may only be known that a work was in a particular condition during a particular span of time. Information about condition drawn from the documentation of the examination itself, or supplied by the cataloger if he or she made the examination.

Source

This should be drawn from the documentation of the examination itself or from published or unpublished sources.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

Dates can be recorded in two ways: as text (illustrated in the above examples), and as two integers indicating the beginning of a date span and the end of a date span. Rigidly controlled format is required to allow retrieval. The use of date guidelines is recommended, such the AAT Date Guidelines or ISO 8601: Dates & Times.


Condition/Examination History - Place

DEFINITION

The location, studio, or laboratory where the examination of the work's condition took place.

EXAMPLES

Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Canadian Conservation Institute, Ottawa, Ontario
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

DISCUSSION

This subcategory identifies the actual place where the examination procedure took place. (The examiner often comes to the work of art rather than vice versa.)

Place names should be recorded in a consistent manner. Note that they include both the institution as well as the geographic place name. While complete details may be available about more recent examinations, it may not be known exactly where a work was examined in the past.

Source

Information about where an object was examined can be drawn from the documents of the examination itself, including formal reports, most often unpublished, found in the files of conservators, museums, and galleries.

USES

Knowing where the examination took place can shed light on the accuracy or validity of the assessment.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of authorities for corporate bodies and geography is recommended; sources of vocabulary include BGN, Canadiana Authorities, TGN, LC Name Authorities, and LCSH.


Condition/Examination History - Remarks

DEFINITION

Any additional notes about the condition or examination of a work of art, and the assessment of its condition, including the interpretation of results or the source of information.

Condition/Examination History - Citations

DEFINITION

Any additional notes about the condition or examination of a work of art, and the assessment of its condition, including the interpretation of results or the source of information.

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ENDNOTES

1 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Condition Report, Donatello's Madonna of the Clouds, June 22, 1992.