The conservation department at the Calcografía Nacional have discovered that the steel facing covering Goya´s plates for Los Caprichos is oxidizing and causing damage to the copper underneath. The solution is to store them in a controlled environment to prevent further damage. As the plates are on permanent exhibition Factum Arte were approached and asked about the possibility of producing exact replicas of the plates for exhibition purposes.
Factum Arte has a long collaboration with the Calcographia since Adam Lowe and Manuel Franquelo set up and equipped Estampa Digital (the digital print studio housed within the Calcografia). We have also collaborated on various exhibitions and other projects. For some time it has become evident that the Calcografia Nacional, with its remarkable collection of plates and prints is perfectly situated to develop a new approach to the archiving and dissemination of prints and the history of printmaking.
The Goya plates presented a practical challenge and a genuine opportunity to investigate this idea in practice. By digitally archiving all the Goya etching plates for Los Capricios the Calcografia Nacional will be able to continue exhibiting the plates as well as producing a matrix that can allow new editions of the prints to be produced if desired.
In the preliminary work carried out so far Factum Arte has carried out the following research:
Laser scanning the surface of a first edition print from Los Capricios using the Seti Scanner. The print was recorded at a resolution of 100 microns. The laser scanning has generated a digital archive with sufficient resolution to capture the relief of the lines caused by the pressure exerted by the press on the paper. It has also captured the subtle details of the plate and the slight irregularities in the surface of the paper.
Tests were also carried out to scan the etching plate itself but the Seti Scanner cannot capture noise free data from reflective surfaces and the results were rejected. Tests will be carried out using a white light scanner in the near future.
The 3D information was routed into a block of high density polyeurethene at a resolution of 100 microns.
The print was digitally photographed at high resolution using a Phase One H25 digital back fitted to a medium format Hasselblad camera.
Positive and negative moulds were produced from the routed relief surface and embossing a sheet of handmade paper
Colour balancing and printing the image at 2880 dpi on an Epson 5500 pro
Running print tests using Factum Arte´s purpose built facsimile printer.
We have been working with Hugh Stoneman to produce a continuous tone heliogravure from the original print. This work has involved the production of a sensitised gelatine film and extensive tests to achieve a grain similar in size and character to that used by Goya.