Madame de Pompadour in the Frame: An exhibition at Waddesdon Manor

Portrait of Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, recorded at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich
Oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher and its frame, recorded at Waddesdon Manor
Exhibition dates: 23 May 2019 – Spring 2020

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Factum Foundation is delighted to collaborate with the Rothschild Foundation at Waddesdon Manor on an exhibition exploring the new perspectives which facsimiles can provide on existing works of art. We are grateful for the kind support of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek.

The “private” lives of the pre-Revolution kings of France were a topic for public speculation even in their own time, and the Marquise de Pompadour, the erudite and powerful mistress of Louis XV, continues to fascinate to this day. One of the most famous images of Madame de Pompadour, as she is best known, is that painted by François Boucher, one of the leading figures of the French rococo style, in 1756, at the height of her influence at court. The painting was acquired in 1887 by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, a member of the famous financial dynasty and a collector with a particular passion for the arts of 18th-century France and the Ancien Regime, and was bequeathed after his death to his brother Nathaniel. It is now on display at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, on permanent loan from its owner, the HypoVereinsbank, Member of Unicredit.

The facsimile created by Factum Foundation allows the Munich painting of Madame de Pompadour to take its place once again among Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s collections, and even in the mid-18th-century French frame (with 19th-century additions) which the painting occupied at that time. It is shown alongside a second facsimile, this one of a smaller Boucher oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour, purchased by Ferdinand’s cousin Baron Edmond (1878-1934). This painting is on loan from a Rothschild family trust, and its inclusion in the Waddesdon exhibition provides a rare opportunity to examine an original alongside Factum Foundation’s facsimile of it.

Recording at the Alte Pinakothek

The large canvas (201 x 157cm) was scanned in the galleries of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. The Lucida 3D Scanner was used to capture the very fine surface relief of the large canvas - a process that took over twenty hours and required the scanner to be built up to its maximum 2m height. One of the reasons Factum produces such meticulous recordings even for paintings that at first glance appear to be lacking in interesting texture (Boucher’s paintings are relatively flat) is that an accurate scan of surface relief results in a far more naturalistic replica. Another reason is that high-quality data can be used to study the canvas and its conservation status in great detail.

Scanning the large portrait in the Alte Pinakothek © Óscar Parasiego for Factum Foundation

The Lucida 3D Scanner digitising the painting © Óscar Parasiego for Factum Foundation

The Lucida 3D Scanner digitising the painting © Óscar Parasiego for Factum Foundation

The Lucida 3D Scanner digitising the painting © Óscar Parasiego for Factum Foundation

The colour of the Munich painting was recorded with panoramic photography, a technique in which the photographer takes multiple overlapping photographs of a surface at very high resolution from a fixed point. During post-processing a ‘mosaic’ is built up from the individual photographs to produce one very heavy image file; Factum Foundation is currently producing recordings of flat surfaces with resolutions up to 900dpi. In the museum, the process involves carrying out both physical and digital colour checking procedures: digital colour checks using X-Rite colour checking methods, and physical colour checks using Pantone 'colour sticks', which are matched to the colours on the painting by the human eye. These can be used at a later stage in post-processing to bring the digital colour file into even closer correspondence to the colours of the original painting.

Colour checking © Óscar Parasiego for Factum Foundation


Scanning the oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour and its frame at Waddesdon

Factum Foundation has also made a recording of the second Boucher painting of Madame de Pompadour. The small oil sketch was recorded in a day using the Lucida 3D Laser Scanner and panoramic photography, and the frame was recorded separately using photogrammetry. Photogrammetry involves taking multiple pictures of an object from different angles, and then converting them into a depth map using computer software; this results in a 3D model of the object. For the Waddesdon frame, 641 photos were used in order to construct the model.

The oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour being recorded with the Lucida 3D Scanner at Waddesdon © Factum Foundation

Scanning the small oil sketch © Factum Foundation

The small oil sketch in its frame after restoration © Waddesdon Manor


Processing the data

The Lucida data was processed to produce “renders” of the surfaces of the paintings: 2D depth-maps, viewable on a computer browser, of the 2.5D reliefs, allowing the user to see changes in relief of the paintings’ surfaces. A separate colour file was produced for each painting, as well as a third file in which the colour was mapped onto the 2.5D render – an operation precise enough that each three-dimensional brushstroke corresponds to the correct colour. These three different datasets – render, colour, render + colour – were then gathered together into a layered archive, shown here, where they can be compared with one another and used by conservators and others to study the surface of the painting. These files also provide the raw material for the physical materialization of the facsimile.



Physical materialisation of the canvases 

In order to make the facsimile, the surface relief of the painting was first printed in 3D using the elevated printing technology developed by Océ, a Canon company with whom Factum Foundation has collaborated on many projects. Océ’s revolutionary printing method involves building up pigment layer by layer to create a high-resolution relief surface. 

In Factum’s workshops, liquid silicon was poured over Océ’s print to create a mould of its surface, and a cast was made from this mould in acrylic-reinforced gesso. This “fiberskin”, which forms the base surface of the final facsimile, was then glued onto a canvas.

Factum’s unique flatbed printer, which has been adapted in-house for this purpose, was used to print the colour data onto the textured surface of the cast. The data is first printed onto a layer of acetate, which is then matched precisely to the fiberskin to ensure that the distribution of pigment corresponds precisely to the relief of the painting’s surface. A second printing stage takes place directly onto the relief surface. Finally, the canvas is varnished to match the finish of the original painting.

A first proof printout of the small facsimile was taken to Waddesdon to ensure that the colours match those of the original, allowing for adjustments before the printing of the final facsimile.

First printing tests © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

First printing tests using a digital colourchecker passport © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Foundation

The colour data is first printed onto acetate, allowing for the precise registration of pigment with the surface relief of the gesso © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

This sample, which will be shown in the exhibition, is a test done using Océ's Elevated Printing Technology which shows the surface data for the small painting, both with and without colour, reproduced at different depths of relief. The sections at the top have no relief at all, while the sections at the bottom have a far more pronounced relief than the original painting. While the colour for the actual facsimile was printed by Factum, recent advances in Océ's technology may provide alternative methods of rematerialising colour © Oak Taylor Smith

Final facsimile of Boucher's portrait © Oak Taylor Smith

Physical materialisation of the frame

The frame for the small facsimile was 3D printed in polyamide in several parts using stereolithographic printing (SLP). These parts, which are originally hollow, were then joined together and filled with epoxy resin for strength and solidity. 

The framing re-materialisation processes employed by Factum Foundation involve the merging of traditional skills with innovative methodologies developed in response to the non-traditional materials with which we work; our expert gilding and patination experts have adapted existing gilding practice to allow gilding on surfaces as diverse as aluminium and polyurethane. For this frame, they began by coating the polyamide surface in gesso, and then added a second layer of bole (ceramic) before applying the gold itself. The frame was then polished and patinated.

As the original frame has been restored by Waddesdon in the period between our recording of it and the exhibition, Factum’s artisans have had to make decisions about how far to “restore” the facsimile as well: whether to fill in a crack on the pre-restored frame, for example, and whether to imitate the patination of the frame prior to, or after, restoration. 

The rematerialisation of the frame of the oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour at Factum's workshops © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The 3D model of the frame used to print out the data

The rematerialisation of the frame of the oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour at Factum's workshops © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The rematerialisation of the frame of the oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour at Factum's workshops © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The rematerialisation of the frame of the oil sketch of Madame de Pompadour at Factum's workshops © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Sections of the original frame of the large portrait prior to restoration © Factum Foundation

© Oak Taylor Smith

[R] The finished facsimile frame © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

[L] The facsimile in its frame © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation


The exhibition at Waddesdon Manor

The facsimiles are shown at Waddesdon in the exhibition ‘Madame de Pompadour in the Frame’, organised by Factum Foundation and Waddesdon Manor and designed by RIBA-award-winning architects Skene Catling de la Peña. Running from May 23rd to October 27th 2019, the exhibition allows visitors to examine the facsimiles alongside artefacts of the production process and to watch a video showing the various stages of making.

The exhibition design draws on the Rococo world of Madame de Pompadour as defined and championed by François Boucher, using a variety of digital techniques developed by Factum Foundation. A series of engraved Rococo panels by Boucher are printed onto silk and surrounded by bevelled mirrors. Originally intended for a folding screen, the themes are, ‘Rocaille (Rococo)’, ‘Leda’, ‘The Triumph of Priapus’, ‘The Triumph of Pomona’, and ‘Pastorale’. Boucher’s excessive allegorical imagery and visual puns, multiplied through reflection, creates a magical world that appears to extend far beyond the space of the exhibition. With an allusion to Versailles, this Hall of Mirrors creates its own infinity, reinforced by the secondary illusion of the rococo world seen through the frames of Boucher's architectural conceits.

On top of the wallpaper hang two framed versions of the small, spontaneous and intimate oil sketch by Boucher that is still in the collection at Waddesdon. One of these two is original. At the far end of the room hangs a copy of the finished painting of Madame de Pompadour from Alte Pinakothek in Munich - reunited with its 'original frame'. This juxtaposition challenges the visitor to reflect on the dynamic nature of all works of art and think about how objects age, migrate and how they are preserved.

A Lucida 3D Laser Scanner is set up in the main room to record various paintings in the Waddesdon collection over the course of the exhibition. In a separate part of the display, cases containing an extraordinary collection of objects from the Factum studio – a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – show the fusion of technology and craftsmanship involved in Factum's work. Everything aims to reveal the process of recording and making, ‘input and output’, technology and material evidence.

© Pablo Wheldon

Entering the exhibition galleries at Waddesdon Manor. The bust was once thought to be a LeMoyne portrait of Madame de Pompadour © Pablo Wheldon

Entering the exhibition. On the left are the small portrait and facsimile; ahead is the facsimile of the Munich portrait © Waddesdon Image Library, Mike Fear

The small portrait and its facsimile © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

Facsimile and original. The central caption invites viewers to decide which is which before lifting the flaps on the covered captions to either side © Waddesdon Image Library, Mike Fear

The large facsimile © Waddesdon Image Library, Mike Fear

Guests at the press view in front of the large facsimile © Pablo Wheldon

Charlotte Skene Catling with the large facsimile © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

A gauze frame divided the room; vitrines contained objects relating to the reproduction process © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

The Lucida scanner © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

During the press view the Lucida was used to scan the only known painting of Ferdinand de Rothschild © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

Videos and further displays explored the reproduction process in more depth, and showcased other projects by Factum Foundation and Factum Arte © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

Tests in relief and colour © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

Tests and samples from other projects © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

Original, facsimile, reflection © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

© Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

© Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

[R] © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

[L] Caricature of a satyr looking at the large portrait in its original frame. He stands on a book called 'Moeurs' ('Propriety') and the text underneath reads 'Truth triumphs over Authority' © Elizabeth Mitchell for Factum Foundation

Exhibition at Waddesdon Manor © Charlotte Skene Catling

Madame de Pompadour in the Frame runs at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire from 23 May 2019 to Spring 2020. For more information see

The facsimiles and exhibition have involved the work of a great many people, many of whom are listed here:

Waddesdon Manor: Pippa Shirley, Cristina Alfonsín, Mia Jackson, Jo Fells, Tracy Jones, Chloe Wells, John Iapino, Ruth Bubb, Sarah Stoll

Skene Catling de la Peña: Charlotte Skene Catling, Pablo Wheldon

Factum Foundation: Adam Lowe, Elizabeth Mitchell, Carlos Bayod, Gabriel Scarpa, Eva Rosenthal, Guendalina Damone, Otto Lowe, Voula Paraskevi Natsi, Teresa Casado, Enrique Esteban, Jordi García Pons, Eduardo López Rodríguez, Rafa Rachewsky, Silvia Álvarez, Maria del Carmen Pascual, David Carrillo, Eva Segovia, Óscar Parasiego, Nicolas Béliard, Natalia Pérez Buesa, Isabel Fernández López, Irene Gaumé, Pepe Gomez-Acebo, José Menéndez, Jenifer Vahos, Luke Tchalenko.

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