Objects separated from the original context could be reconstructed or modified to serve a new purpose. Small parts of altarpieces could be used for private devotion with slight modifications. For example, identity of a figure could easily change with the addition of inscriptions or other visual elements. Until the last century, it was not unusual to put together fragments from completely unrelated objects to make a satisfying whole. Careful examination of atypical iconography and analysis of materials help discover whether an artwork was altered or reconstructed with pieces from different sources.
Giovanni Ambrogio Bevilacqua
Saint Jerome, circa 1495-1500 (detail)
Tempera with gold leaf on wood panel
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
The Suida-Manning Collection