Peter Paul Rubens: A Special Presentation by E. Melanie Gifford and Jennifer Henel

 The Center for Early Cultures     Jan 26 2022 | 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM Zoom

note that this event title is subject to change


UCI Early Cultures and the Digital Humanities Exchange are excited to welcome Melanie Gifford, Visiting Researcher,
Department of Northern European Paintings, National Gallery of Art & Jennifer Henel, Vice President for Communications with the Digital Art History Society, and Managing Editor for the Journal of the Historians of Netherlandish Art for a talk on this Early Modern master painter, diplomat, and polymath.

Gifford and Henel will focus on Rubens's The Fall of Phaeton, how the work evidences the painter's artistic evolution, and how digital tools can help us better understand the history of art.

Presentation abstract:
The online Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art recently launched a newly interactive format for JHNA articles. These new features (a IIIF image viewer and hot spot annotations) were first implemented in an article that weaves together technical evidence and art historical interpretation to explore the development of Peter Paul Rubens’s The Fall of Phaeton (Rubens’s Invention and Evolution: Material Evidence in The Fall of Phaeton, JHNA Vol. 11.2). As it appears today, Peter Paul Rubens’s The Fall of Phaeton depicts the dramatic story at a critical moment. But what one finds when looking below the paint surface gives us new insights into the artist’s changing goals for the painting. Author Melanie Gifford had several goals for this project: to tell the story of Rubens’s three distinct stages in this composition and relate these to other works by Rubens; to make the original data available to other technical researchers; and to introduce non-specialist readers to using technical evidence in art history by inviting them to carry out their own intimate study of the painting itself. As JHNA Digital Humanities Developer, Jenifer Henel chose IIIF technology in a newly adapted image viewer to give readers direct access to the painting and technical documentation. We hope that, after reading the article, users will continue to use these viewing tools to make further discoveries. We will discuss the project from art historical and technical perspectives, highlighting what we have learned from such a rich collaboration and leave time for Q&A with attendees where we hope to have a fruitful discussion and share lessons learned to help shape future projects.

Melanie Gifford’s interdisciplinary research considers the artistic decision-making process, focusing on Dutch and Flemish painters. At the start of her career, she worked for 15 years as a painting conservator at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and soon after completed her PhD in art history. Melanie worked in the Scientific Research Department of the National Gallery of Art for 29 years, using technical evidence to consider art historical questions. Recent projects at the National Gallery include the study of Rubens presented today and research with Lisha Glinsman using technical study of Dutch high-life genre painters to document seventeenth-century evaluations of artistic style. She is currently completing a study of paintings by, or attributed to, Johannes Vermeer at the National Gallery of Art in collaboration with colleagues in the Curatorial, Conservation and Scientific Research departments. She will soon resume independent research focusing on innovative painting practices in Dutch seventeenth-century landscape paintings and on the audience response to these works.
Jennifer Henel is an independent consultant in the digital humanities and Managing Editor for the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (JHNA). She also serves as a Vice President for Communications with the Digital Art History Society. She is formerly the curatorial coordinator for digital content and curatorial associate in the department of Northern Baroque Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., where she served as project manager for a number of digital and analog efforts, including NGA Online Editions’ initial publication, Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. She received her masters in art history from the George Washington University in 2009.