In 1999, an exhibition of bronzes by the Dutch artist Adriaen de Vries (1556-1626) traveled to the J. Paul Getty Museum. A wide range of sculpture from small table-top pieces to over life-size fountain figures were included in the exhibition, offering the rare opportunity to systematically study the work of a single bronze artist. Of the forty-four pieces exhibited, twenty-five bronzes signed by or attributed to de Vries were analyzed, concentrating on those objects presenting art historical questions, and those that had not been thoroughly examined previously. The analysis included: x-ray radiography, x-ray fluorescence analysis of the alloys, photomicrography of exterior details, and petrographic analysis and thermoluminscence dating of the cores.
By bringing together works securely attributed to de Vries with those of uncertain attribution, the exhibition gave us the opportunity to combine scientific data with historic documentation and visual observation to further understand the artist’s oeuvre. In order to illustrate both our examination methods and the type of information resulting from the project, I will give a cast study detailing the examination of two bronzes. In doing so, I also hope to illustrate the degree to which technical and art historical knowledge can compliment and enhance one another.