The Origin of Technical Art History and the Study of the Artist’s Creative Process

The Origin of Technical Art History and the Study of the Artist’s Creative Process

Marco Cardinali

Marco Cardinali's project sought to review, update, and integrate the research that led to the publication of the university manual Diagnostica Artistica. Tracce materiali per la storia dell´arte e la conservazione (Rome, Fratelli Palombi, 2002 and 2007). The project also sought to issue a comprehensively revised third edition in English. 

The theoretical roots of technical research into artworks can be found in nineteenth century connoisseurship, or more precisely the "scientific method" introduced by Giovanni Morelli, who was influenced by comparative anatomy. The distinct ways European and US schools have approached the matter follow from their own distinct cultural and philosophical backgrounds, and from their own particular strategies when it comes to conservation and education. Different ways of acknowledging, hindering, or adopting multidisciplinary research have affected the individual activities of many international pioneers, amateurs, and scholars. It follows that the aims and processes involved say much about the state of the art and about potential future developments. Marco Cardinali's interest as a scholar was to question whether so-called Technical Art History—a term often used but one that fails to convince—is a proper discipline, or merely a reaction to the long-term crisis in Art History. On the other hand, Technical Art History may even offer a solution to current problems. It is very much worth stating that during recent years, the previously small amount of data and images used in technical research and analysis has expanded, and now a more integrated and insightful overview is offered. The technology now available enables the exploitation of multi-spectral imaging techniques, providing a powerful instrument with which to hypothesize about the creative processes involved within the works of art.