The Frick Updates its Historic Enamels Room Cases and Conserves a Remarkable Collection

New York’s Frick Collection is home to one of the most important groups of Renaissance enamels in the world, ranking alongside those of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, The Wallace Collection and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

The forty-two enamels in The Frick Collection were produced in the city of Limoges, in central France, from the late fifteenth to the early seventeenth century. A selection of the Frick’s enamels returned to view this month after a year’s absence. During this period, many objects were examined and treated for the first time since they entered the Collection. This project was inspired by advances in the last decade in the understanding of Renaissance enamel production and composition. It has also benefited from a major international enamel conservation conference held at the Frick. The consensus about the care of enamels has led many institutions to place them in environments of absolute temperature stability with a lower relative humidity than had been recommended in the past. With this new standard in mind, The Frick Collection rebuilt the historic cases created in 1935 for its Enamels Room by the eminent architect John Russell Pope (1874–1937). The ornate vitrines, which evoke the sense of a princely collector’s cabinet, offer an appealing context for the presentation of enamels. The Frick’s cases have been completely sealed, allowing for optimal climate control by circulating the air through an automated internal humidification and dehumidification system. The cases are constructed of neutral materials conducive to prolonged display, and they have been relit using customized prototype fixtures developed for the museum by Steven Weintraub of A.P.S. (Art Preservation Services, based in New York). The new devices employ energy-efficient L.E.D. (light-emitting diode) illumination. The combined effect of these efforts, along with the treatment of the objects, is that the Frick’s jewel-like enamels now reveal their brilliance as never before and their long-term preservation is assured. –

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