With this special issue, the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art is pleased to publish its first digital art history project, E. Melanie Gifford’s “Rubens’s Invention and Evolution: Material Evidence in The Fall of Phaeton.” The article reveals a newly discovered campaign of revision – a separate and distinct stage of reworking — in a painting by Rubens long thought to have been completed during his Italian sojourn (1600–1608). This new information has important implications for our understanding of the artist’s evolution. Dr. Gifford shows how Rubens continued to engage critically with his experience in Italy after he returned to Antwerp. Importantly, she demonstrates Rubens’s creative process as he moved between paintings and rethought the efficacy of his compositions. The essay thereby augments our understanding of Rubens’s working process and the impact of his travels.
Dr. Gifford’s article has incorporated special digital enhancements that are new to the JHNA platform. As a result, the article demonstrates how well art-historical research can include technical data along with historical evidence and formal analysis. By offering ways to interpret the material evidence found in the painting itself, the article offers a resource to introduce this methodology to both scholars and students. The enhanced digital features facilitate independent exploration of The Fall of Phaeton, with image tools that recreate the intimate experience of studying the painting’s surface at high magnification while consulting x-ray and infrared images and paint samples. With additional guidance on the interpretation of technical information and the use of the image tools, we hope the feature, “Exploration and Resources,” will support classroom use of this article as an example of art historical research that draws on evidence of the artist’s techniques.
The publication is particularly innovative in the technology that was chosen, described in detail in “JHNA’s Enhancements.” It employs the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) OpenSeaDragon viewer to present high-resolution, zoomable images and detailed cross-sections. This viewer offers important features for this project: 1) an augmented image set, including normal (visible) light, false-color infrared, and X-radiograph images as well as magnified paint samples, and 2) a side-by-side viewer, allowing for the study of any two images featured in the article.
We are pleased to share that the side-by-side viewer has now been applied retroactively throughout the entire JHNA website. That means images allow side-by-side viewing — possible with the click of a mouse — in articles published from the very first issues through to the current issue. Try it out! We welcome your feedback.
The project could not have been completed without the generous support of a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, which allowed us to secure the invaluable help and skills of Jennifer Henel as Digital Humanities Developer and Morgan Schwartz as Project Programmer. Our Managing Editor, Heidi Eyestone, worked closely with this team. The combined efforts of Jennifer, Morgan, and Heidi have achieved the technical excellence of Melanie’s project while also ensuring the viability of these tools for future JHNA publications. As well, we owe special thanks to Maria Effinger and Nicole Sobriel of the University of Heidelberg for their help arranging the hosting of the gigantic IIIF images.
Jacquelyn N. Coutré, the Associate Editor in charge of digital art history at the journal, was involved in numerous ways, most importantly in the drafting of the grant proposal. Our most heartfelt thanks go to Melanie Gifford, who broached the idea of the project in conversation with JHNA editors a number of years ago. We thank her for moving the project forward despite a demanding schedule at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where she is Research Conservator for Painting Technology.
We also thank Jessica Skwire Routhier for copyediting Dr. Gifford’s text with impressive attention to detail. We are grateful to Carleton College for financial support. Not least, we thank Christopher Tassava, Carleton College, for his advice concerning grant applications.
JHNA is archived by Portico, an electronic service initiated by JSTOR and supported by the Mellon Foundation, Ithaka, and the Library of Congress. Preserving scholarship published in electronic form indefinitely, it ensures long-term access to our content. Our membership in CrossRef allows us to register each of our articles with a unique Digital Object Identifier (DOI) that provides a persistent link to its location on the internet. It allows libraries and other organizations as well as readers of online journals to find and connect to these articles. All articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
We encourage you to consider JHNA as a venue for your own publications. With your help, JHNA will remain one of the premier journals of the early modern art of the Netherlands and its region.
The Journal welcomes submissions at any time. Please consult our Submission Guidelines.
Alison M. Kettering, Carleton College, Editor-in-Chief
Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Art Institute of Chicago, Associate Editor
Dagmar Eichberger, Universität Heidelberg, Associate Editor
Bret Rothstein, Indiana University, Associate Editor