A few days ago, the Financial Times ran a story that combined several different elements of the ways in which connoisseurship and technology are beginning to overcome their mutual antagonism. The story is ostensibly about the first publication from the VISTAs project founded by collectors Hester Diamon, Fabrizio Moretti and John Landau. The first book is about Tullio Lombardo whose Adam was painstakingly restored and put back on display at the Met recently. But VISTAs provides a way for anyone interested in the sculptors work to see the works in incredible detail.
Diamond explained to the FT why the technology was important; and the FT explains how it can be combined with connoisseurship:
It was her frustration as a collector that sowed the seed for Vistas. “I found that research [for sculpture] was not the simple proposition it was for paintings. There is hardly anything on the web about anyone other than the biggest names, and the images are poor, very low-resolution and with no sense of depth. The same goes for books on sculpture. If the quality of photography is not mediocre, it is melodramatic, which can make for interesting images but does not serve the sculpture well.” […]
But Old Master sculpture, perhaps even more than painting, remains a minefield of attribution. Vistas Visuals should prove an invaluable tool for what could be called the Giovanni Morelli school of connoisseurship. The 19th-century Italian art historian closely examined minor details of a work of art, looking for idiosyncratic rendering of ears and toes and the like — details that were unlikely to be copied by imitators — to identify and authenticate the work of specific artists.