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Fit for a masterpiece

Photographing some of the world’s most precious artworks

Gemäldegalerie, Berlin June 29, 2015. Photographer: Volker Schneider.
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin June 29, 2015. Photographer: Volker Schneider.
At TASCHEN, it is our pride and privilege to work with some of the greatest creative masters of all time. In our commitment to excellence, we work to give each of these artists the respect and top treatment they, and our readers, deserve, whether it’s an alive and kicking contemporary or a star of the 17th-century.

In particular, we spare no expense in presenting an artist’s work in the best possible light, often have paintings newly photographed with state-of-the-art technology, so that their reproduction in our books is as close to the original as possible. In the case of our new Vermeer: Complete Paintings monograph, we had 18 out of 35 existing paintings newly photographed, working alongside some of the most esteemed museum collections in the world, including The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis in The Hague, the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, and the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig.

In this behind-the-scenes picture, we see The Glass of Wine being photographed in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie. It may not be a diva supermodel, but preparing this masterwork for its photo shoot requires all sorts of special measures, preparations, and precautions. First, there’s the challenge of scheduling. Due to the extensive technical and logistical requirements involved in such photography, it can only take place when the museum is closed.

Then the work has to be taken out of its frame, requiring a whole team of curators, photographers, conservators, and security to ensure that the work is protected at all times, on all fronts. Finally, the photographers themselves need to apply complex techniques such as cross-polarization in order to avoid unwanted reflections from the craquelure (superficial cracks, formed by the aging of paints) and to capture the work in all its glory.