Video: Pierre-Jean Mariette and Splitting Drawings

One of the most dramatic interventions performed by Mariette on drawings in his collection was the splitting of a single sheet of paper to separate the recto and the verso of double-sided drawings.

Mariette’s contemporaries were amazed by his skill in this challenging operation. In 1761, the comte de Caylus wrote:

Mariette [is] the most skillful and patient man alive. I will give you an example. He has more than once split [a sheet] of paper and placed on the same surface two drawings which the author had made on the recto and verso of the same sheet and those drawings were by Raphael!

To gain a better understanding of how Mariette split his drawings, the Morgan’s Thaw Conservation Center attempted to separate a replica of an old master drawing with studies on both sides.

The experiment is shown in this video.

This video draws upon the recent research into Mariette as a collector undertaken by Pierre Rosenberg de l’Académie française and the Association Mariette, Paris; Kristel Smentek, Associate Professor of Art History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; and the Société Frits Lugt pour l’Étude des Marques de Collections, Fondation Custodia, Paris.

Support for this video was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Program in Library and Archive Conservation Education.