Art Institute of Chicago - Ayala Altarpiece

My position at the Art Institute of Chicago involves image preparation and delivery to both internal and external clients. Working with other departments, we supply collections, exhibit, and program documentation for a variety of purposes. We work most closely with publications, developing both online and print catalogs.

One such recent project involves post-conservation treatment documentation of the Ayala Altarpiece, a massive two panel piece created in 1396. In order to get the largest section out of the chapel in which it was originally housed, the largest panel had to be cut into three sections. It was reassembled and the spaces between the sections were filled and inpainted by conservators. Both panels have undergone full conservation in the past few years, which has meant the sections have had to be cut once again to navigate from the gallery to the conservation lab and to imaging. You can read more about this process on the Art Institute’s blog.

A publication is being developed which will feature the Ayala Altarpiece, but the deadline falls before the anticipated completion date for gallery re-installation for the panels. The three sections of the largest panel have been individually documented after conservation was finished, but our department will not have the opportunity to photograph the inpainting done to fill the sections prior to the print date. I have been tasked with digitally filling the gaps, following pre-treatment documentation from its prior gallery installation. This falls outside my normal editing work, and it was a fun challenge. It’s been years since I’ve drawn or painted, so I had to brush up on my skills to complete the panel, especially in areas which featured figures and detailed decorative elements.

We will do overall imaging once the panels are fully installed and inpainted, which will be the ultimate and true collections documentation for the altarpiece. But for now, this digitally stitched image will have to suffice for immediate needs.

 A quick view of some of the steps involved with editing the altarpiece.

A quick view of some of the steps involved with editing the altarpiece.

 Detail, before

Detail, before

 Detail, after

Detail, after