using historically appropriate materials


Reconstructions involve copying a (section of a) painting in order to better understand how it was originally made. The choice of materials is based on technical examination, documentary sources, the results of analysis, and materials research. Making reconstructions can provide a “hands-on” experience of how and why materials were prepared in a certain way.
In illusionistic reconstructions, the appearance of a painting is copied as accurately as possible. These are instructive with regard to understanding painting techniques, and can be understood by a non-specialist viewer.

In non-illusionistic reconstructions, an attempt is made to replicate materials and their application process, but not create a recognizable image. In both cases, the choice of materials and application methods are (as much as possible) historically appropriate: imitating the material composition and historical preparation methods, and achieving similar paint handling and visual characteristics to the actual paintings.

Abbie Vandivere has experience making reconstructions of Early Netherlandish paintings, including painting: changeant (shot silk) fabrics, flesh paint on coloured intermediate layers, and textured red glazes. She has experience making historical pigments from scratch (red and yellow lakes, verdigris), and preparing modified oils. She has also reconstructed Italian tempera paintings, and other oil painting methods. She has led workshops and 10-day courses that involve the making of reconstructions. In January 2016, she will teach the course Laboratories of Art: Historical Reconstructions within the MA course in Technical Art History at the University of Amsterdam.


Dr. Abbie Vandivere, accredited painting conservator based in the Netherlands