The Infill: 9 March 2017

The Infill: scandal free since 2015

It’s raining cats and lions

Yes, it’s time for our annual March weather report. Last year we had lions. Loads of lions. If you count three as a load, that is. This year it’s at best drizzling felines, but at least one of them solved an interesting artistic conundrum facing the sculptors of ancient Assyria: how do you carve the king of the beasts out of gypsum and make it look as though it is both standing and walking? Why, you give the lion a fifth leg, of course. Anatomy schmanatomy. Which is to varying degrees the case with the world’s oldest rug, made entirely out of cat hair. We’re not sure whether the spotted, striped and tippy-toe-walking animal it depicts is actually a cat, a badger or some kind of small-headed bear… but we feel we can safely say it’s a male.

X marks the spot

X-ray phase-contrast tomography has finally revealed the content, currently being translated from ancient Greek to English, of scrolls charred during the 79AD eruption of Mt Vesuvius. The results are coming soon to a scientific journal near you. X-ray technology was presumably not required to determine that this pre-1521 Mexican Mixtec codex, featuring the exploits of Lord Eight Deer Jaguar-Claw, was made from deerskin. However, X-rays have revealed a hidden portrait of Charles Dickens’ wife, with whom we imagine he had some rather seismic rows after she happened upon the bracelet he had purchased for his mistress. Ouch.

For all of you submissive types

Information that would have been useful to us last year…

…which was, of course, UNESCO’s International Year of Pulses, during which we failed to cook up a single lousy story involving conservation and chickpeas, is this instructive video on how to write cuneiform on Babylonian lentil tablets. We just thank our lucky stars The Infill wasn’t around back in 2013, the International Year of Quinoa.

Information that would have been useful 60 years ago to conservators in South Carolina, USA is the fact that laminating important historical documents is not a good idea. But information that is useful yesterday, today and tomorrow includes this post on photographic printing-out processes of the 19th century, a report on medieval techniques for 18th-century book repairs, a free downloadable publication on non-invasive analysis of painted surfaces, instructions for mending tears in modern canvases, a quick tutorial on five forms of obsolete paper and tips for navigating museums without losing your marbles.

Information that is perhaps more entertaining than useful is the news that the yo-yo is over 2,500 years old, and the revelation that we ‘should be excited about Japanese manhole covers‘.

Your video treat:

is both visually pleasing and educational. In a mere 72 seconds you can either learn the basics of Suminagashi, the ancient Japanese art of paper marbling, or just sit back and watch the pretty pictures emerge from the water.

The final word…

… goes to art historian Natasha Schlesinger, who inadvertently explains what museums have in common with supermarkets: you should never visit them when you’re hungry. Lest those Dutch still lifes prove too tempting, we assume.

With thoughts of huge chunks of cheese, big hunks of bread, plus grapes, pheasants and glistening goblets of wine in our heads – and grumbling in our bellies – we bid you bon appétit and adieu. Kiss kiss, The Gathering

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