How to Fake a Medieval Fresco in Third Reich Germany

banter

Longreads

Down in the schwahl, Malskat and the Feys set to work, attempting to reclaim history by scraping away the paint with which Olbers had tried to recapture the past. But subtracting what their predecessor had done—whether on account of Olbers’ pigments or the Feys’ incompetence—left almost none of the original paint. A nearly 700-year-old national treasure had vanished, and Ernst Fey was legally responsible for the disappearance.

Most likely Fey was the one to think of a fix. Unquestionably Malskat was the one who achieved it. Over the next several months, the erstwhile housepainter whitewashed the brick, discoloring his lime with pigment to give the walls an ancient tint. Onto this fresh surface he painted freehand his own version of the murals. Necessarily these were based on Olbers’ 19th-century restorations, reverse engineered to approximate the early medieval originals by reference to period examples in the professor’s catalogues. Drawing his figures…

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