Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Judith with the Head of Holofernes, overall

Detail of wormhole

Formerly attributed to Andrea Mantegna, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ink and white heightening on prepared paper.

This drawing first aroused suspicion on stylistic grounds and was sent to the conservation lab at the National Gallery of Art by Renaissance scholar Diane DeGrazia, who was then a curator at the NGA. The drawing was submitted to a battery of non-invasive analytical techniques, including x-ray fluorescence. Testing revealed the presence of anomalous materials such as Mars black, an iron-based pigment unavailable in Mantegna's day. However, such materials could not be discounted as later additions.

The drawing had been lined overall with lightweight canvas which prevented a thorough examination of the paper. Close inspection of the wormhole provided the final bit of evidential weight. The hole continued through the paper and the canvas backing. The edges of the hole turned slightly downward, suggesting that the hole, rather than having been eaten into the sheet, had been created using a punch. Slight amounts of drawing medium were deposited on the inner edges of the hole, raising further questions regarding the sequence of creation, damage and restoration.

This may be the case when issues of authenticity arise. It is often not possible to find the so-called smoking gun. Sometimes things just don=t add up and when enough things fail to add up their preponderance may result in the artwork being described as problematic.





Photo Credits: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2008 by Mark Stevenson Paper Conservation. All rights reserved.  Revised: 08/23/08 01:59:29 -0400.