A Letter from the Editors

Welcome to the first issue of Materia: Journal of Technical Art History. This project began in March 2020 during an online chat among a group of friends and colleagues who were frustrated by the unprecedented lack of access to research materials during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the course of the last fifteen months, we have worked to refine our original idea and bring it to life. Materia has been a collaborative effort to establish a uniquely accessible space that will help bridge the divide between what are often treated as separate disciplines, such as art history, conservation, conservation science, and other contributing fields. We founded this journal to encourage dialogue and partnerships among scholars from different backgrounds and circumvent traditional academic and institutional hierarchies.

From the beginning, our team identified the need for a publication dedicated to technical art history, an expanding field of research. As the project evolved, we recognized the potential for an open-access platform to reach a more inclusive and diverse audience. For the pilot issue, we solicited a handful of articles from colleagues who kindly agreed to participate. Technical studies form the inherent backbone of this discipline and are represented by three articles in this issue of Materia. Among them is an article by Jessica David, Richard Hark, and Edward Town, from the Yale Center for British Art, exploring what macro X-ray fluorescence scanning (MA-XRF) can reveal about a group of portraits by prominent seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English painters.

Gianluca Poldi, Maria Letizia Amadori, and Valeria Mengacci present a technical study of Giovanni Santi (ca. 1439–1494), the esteemed but less-extensively studied father of Raphael. Building upon previous research into Santi’s materials and techniques, this article explores the details of two paintings on canvas in the collection of Galleria Nazionale delle Marche.

The third technical study, by José Lazarte, Silvia Centeno, and Federico Carò, considers the eighteenth-century painter Juan Francisco de Aguilera, active in New Spain. Building on the technical examination of a painting on copper support by Aguilera, their research presents one of the first studies dedicated to understanding the artist’s materials and painting techniques.

This issue also includes a set of articles of a more theoretical nature stemming from the question “What does it mean to situate meaning in an artwork’s materiality?”. Conceived in relationship to one another, “Technical Art History and the Art Historical Thing” by Michael Yonan and “Toward a ‘Theory’ for Technical Art History” by Emma Jansson address many of the benefits, but also some of the remaining challenges, involved with integrating material perspectives into a broader art historical inquiry.

We are delighted that these articles launch Materia into cyber-being. Although this first issue concentrates on the technical examination of easel paintings, largely due to our own professional backgrounds and networks, we are actively seeking submissions on a diversity of art media and cultural heritage for future issues. Scholars are also encouraged to submit a copy of their work in a second language when relevant, so that we may expand access to non-English speakers.

We are grateful to the various organizations and people that have offered us encouragement, advice, and valuable insights along the way. It has been our honor to have such an excellent roster of international authors entrust us with their research. We would also like to thank Getty Publications for the opportunity to use their new publishing software Quire as the platform for our digital publication. We could not have created our first issue without the troubleshooting support from Erin Cecele, Greg Albers, and Daniel Keller. A big thanks to Anton Balitskyi for creating our website. We are also grateful to the editorial team at J18: A Journal of Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture, in particular Hannah Williams and Meredith Martin, for sharing their experience launching a new open-access digital publication. The content of this first issue was greatly enriched by the efforts and feedback of our peer reviewers, whom we thank for offering their contributions. We are deeply indebted to the work of our manuscript editor Mary Cason, who has been a valuable member of our team throughout this adventure.

Materia is designed to be an inclusive platform, thus we welcome submissions on all forms of cultural heritage. Submissions for the next issue of Materia are now open, with an initial deadline for abstracts of July 15, 2021. We encourage anyone interested to consult our Submission Guidelines, which can be found on the Materia website along with the current issue. Without further ado, we wish you happy reading!

The Materia team
​Bianca García
Courtney Books
Cynthia Prieur
Emma Jansson
Julie Ribits
Lucia Bay
Morgan Wylder
Roxane Sperber
Sophie Lamb