A German Museum Came Up With an Insanely Low-Tech Solution to Protect Its Rembrandt Canvas From a Leaky Ceiling

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Torrential rain in Germany has caused the ceiling of the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, to leak. Photos from one gallery show a sheet of plastic draped over the 1641 Rembrandt van Rijn canvas , and a white bucket on the floor in front of the artwork to collect the water dripping from the ceiling.

The absurd scene was captured by David Grubbs, a musician and professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, and reported by Hyperallergic. Visiting the museum’s central Rembrandt display in Gallery X, he was disturbed to find a sheet of plastic duct taped to the wall, draped over the large painting, water dripping steadily into a bucket just inches away.

“It was truly bizarre,” Grubbs told Artnet News. “To the right of this one, a smaller Rembrandt had been removed and a second ceiling leak was steadily plop-plop-plopping into a bucket.  There was a line of rainwater down the front of the plastic covering this larger Rembrandt; my guess is that given its size it was more difficult to remove and the covering (plastic and duct tape, literally) was temporary.”

He did not see any museum staff or security guards tending to the artwork. “The small number of visitors were completely shocked—disbelieving,” Grubbs added.

Rembrandt van Rijn, <em>The Mennonite preacher Cornelis Claesz Anslo and his wife Aeltje Gerritsdr Schouten</eM> (1641). Collection of the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Rembrandt van Rijn, (1641). Collection of the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

The museum’s guards discovered the leak around 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, a Gemäldegalerie spokesperson told Artnet News in an email. Germany experienced its “wettest spring” on record, according to the German Weather Service, with flooded roads, train outages, and postponed Berlin Open tennis matches, as reported by the Associated Press.

“The restorers on site immediately provided ‘first aid’ and quickly secured the corresponding areas in the hall with special suction mats and a bucket,” the museum representative wrote. “Rembrandt’s painting of the Mennonite preacher Anslo was first protected with foil before the large-format, heavy painting was taken down shortly afterwards with the help of a lifting platform.”

“No damage was done to the painting itself; thanks to the quick intervention, no water got to the work. It is currently being stored in the depot. The site of the water leak was inspected and secured,” the email continued. “The affected hall and the entire Picture Gallery remain open as usual.”

The Gemäldegalerie is home to a collection of 20 Rembrandt works, a collection it claims is “one of the largest and most valuable in the world.” The museum displays 1,200 works of art, with a special focus on Dutch Golden Age masters and German and Italian painting from the 13th to 16th centuries.

 

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