Ernst van de Wetering, the Dutch art historian, recently remarked, perhaps only partly in jest, that in today’s world a few thousand people earn their living touching works of art while earnestly preventing untold thousands of others from doing just that. This tiny minority of which van de Wetering speaks is busy, in museums and ateliers all over the world, in what Bernard Berenson with a tinge of contempt called “the kitchen of art.” He meant by this to describe that murky backstage frequented by scholars, technicians, and craftsmen where the pulleys, gears, curtains, and props of the art world are manipulated. “BB,” for one, was profoundly suspicious. Regarded more benevolently, this “off limits” terrain is generally known as the “restoration studio” or, alternatively, as the “conservation laboratory.” These two terms, though usually describing settings that are quite...

 
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