2008 CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation
Elizabeth S. Bolman
The CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation recognizes outstanding contributions to the understanding of art through the application of knowledge and experience in conservation, art history, and art. This year’s award goes to Elizabeth S. Bolman, associate professor of art history at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, for her work on the conservation of wall paintings in the so-called Red Monastery, a late-antique basilica near Sohag, Egypt, as well as the neighboring White Monastery.
Bolman identified the potential significance of the Red Monastery in the late 1990s, when the basilica was little known and its paintings barely visible. In 2000 she began what has become a complex project involving many conservators, art and architectural historians, and other specialists. Work began at the Red Monastery in December 2002 and at the White Monastery in May 2004. About one-third of the Red Monastery restoration is now complete. Bolman has published two scholarly articles on the results and succeeded in placing both sites on the World Monuments Fund endangered list. Other plans include a blueprint for the future protection of the sites, a visitor’s center with brochures, and a major book.
The logistics and diplomacy behind all this work are impressive. Bolman assembled a multidisciplinary team, obtained funding from various sources, and dealt successfully with the Coptic Church, the Egyptian government, and other interested parties and agencies. Even more impressive are the results of the restoration, which are quite simply stunning. The ensemble of figural wall paintings and associated decorations gives us a full sense of the wall painting common in late-antique churches but obscured or lost until now. Bolman’s interpretations of the results offer major insights into the role of polychromy in religious experience at the time and in relation to chromophobia of later eras. In honoring her outstanding achievement, we hope to encourage the completion of such an important project.
Jury: Harry Cooper, National Gallery of Art, chair; Jonathan Binstock, Corcoran Gallery of Art; Wynne Phelan, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Rebecca Rushfield, independent conservator.