The Getty Conservation Institute and the Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico (IAPH) are pleased to announce the publication of Methodology for the Conservation of Polychromed Wooden Altarpieces. This publication is the result of a 2002 workshop coorganized by the GCI and IAPH which brought together professionals from the Americas and Europe to discuss the need for a comprehensive methodology for the conservation of wooden altarpieces (see Conservation, vol. 17, no. 2).

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Altarpieces are an expression of faith found throughout the Roman Catholic world. The origin of the altarpiece lies in the medieval liturgical custom of placing relics or images of saints on altars. The layout of altarpieces has varied over time; they have changed from a series of painted panels in the Gothic period to assemblies of grand wooden machinery during the Baroque period. Similarly, the materials employed in their construction have varied: wood was commonly used, although numerous altarpieces were also constructed of stone, alabaster, or marble, or adorned with metal. Both the architectural and decorative features of altarpieces adapted to contemporaneous styles. In its more sophisticated expression, an altarpiece is a complex structure in which architecture and decorative arts are combined. Created to transmit a religious message, these objects of devotion, cherished by churchgoers, are now recognized as the embodiment of a multiplicity of values—they are artistic and historic objects of great scientific and cultural interest.

Methodology for the Conservation of Polychromed Wooden Altarpieces includes fifteen cases studies presented at the workshop, either as expanded articles or in the synthesized form originally prepared for the workshop. The publication includes a CD-ROM featuring a bibliography—one of the fundamental needs expressed at the workshop—to aid heritage professionals in understanding the history and construction of altarpieces, in selecting appropriate research tools, in determining causes of deterioration, and in choosing intervention techniques.

A supplemental illustrated glossary was also developed. Using the typological references and altarpiece styles presented in the case studies, the illustrated glossary compiles and defines the terminology needed to describe an altarpiece in terms of the composition, constructive systems, materials, and techniques used.

The bibliography and the illustrated glossary will be available in electronic format on both the Getty and IAPH Web sites. For further information, visit the Conservation section of the Getty Web site.