About Dianne Modestini

Dianne Dwyer Modestini is Clinical Professor for the Kress Program in Paintings Conservation at the Conservation Center of the Insitute of Fine Arts, NYU. 

Ms. Modestini received a B.A. in Art History from Barnard College, Columbia University, in 1968.  In 1973, she obtained an M.A. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation from the State University of New York at Oneonta, Cooperstown Graduate Program, under the direction of Caroline and Sheldon Keck. While obtaining that degree, she studied conservation of mural paintings with Laura and Paolo Mora at the International Center for the Conservation of Cultural Property in Rome.

In 1974, Ms. Modestini was appointed Assistant Conservator of Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she was responsible for the collection of American paintings. Later, under the direction of John Brealey, she also worked on paintings of other schools and periods. Ms. Modestini was engaged by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1983 to undertake a comprehensive survey of Kress paintings that had been donated to eighteen museums around the United States in 1961 under the foundation’s Regional Gallery Program. The project brought her into contact with one of the twentieth century’s greatest restorers and connoisseurs of Italian painting, the former Conservator and Curator of the Kress Collection, Mario Modestini. In l987, having been promoted to full Conservator, she left the Metropolitan Museum and opened a private practice in paintings conservation with Mr. Modestini.

Ms. Modestini began to teach at New York University’s Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts in 1988. The following year, she initiated a pilot class combining the results of her ongoing survey of the dispersed Kress Collection with her new role as educator. The success of the class led to the launch of the Samuel H. Kress Program in Paintings Conservation in 1989.

For many years Ms. Modestini taught a class for art history students at the IFA about the materials and tecniques of European paintings with an emphasis on the effects of alterations due to time and interference on the artist’s original intent.

The purpose of the Kress Program is to provide students with the opportunity to complete the study and restoration of a painting under the guidance of Ms. Modestini in the context of an advanced treatment class based on a humanistic approach. This has expanded over the years to include technical research: poarized light microscopy and cross-sectional analysis of paint samples to identify pigments, and non-destructive identification of their constituent elements with X-ray fluorescence, and SEM-EDS. Imaging techniques using UV light, digital X-radiography, infrared reflectography, and multi-band reflectography.

Since its inception, over 250 paintings from the dispersed Kress Collections have been studied and conserved. Ms. Modestini and Assistant Paintings Conservator and Research Fellow, Shan Kuang, working with the Kress Foundation and C&G Partners are in the process of creating an interactive website to house the restoration images, reports, and analytical studies so that they will be accessible to colleagues and to the interested public. 

In May 2017 Ms. Modestini received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Fairfield University. Her book, Masterpieces, on the life and work of Mario Modestini was published in 2017 in an English and Italian version by Edizioni Cadmo, an imprint of Casalini Editori, Florence.

For many years she has served on the board of the Roberto Longhi Foundation in Florence, where she has initiated the digitalization of the archives.


“John F. Kensett’s Painting Technique.” John Frederick Kensett. An American Master, W. W. Norton & Company, 1985, pp. 163-180
“Imitative Retouching.” Early Italian Paintings: Approaches to Conservation, Yale University Art Gallery, 2003 pp. 208-224  
“John Brealey and the Cleaning of Paintings.”  Metropolitan Museum Journal, Volume 40, 2005, pp. 27-36
“Mario Modestini, Conservator of the Kress Collection, 1949-1961.” Studying and Conserving Paintings: Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection,  Archetype, London, 2006, pp. 43-64
“A Portable Triptych in El Paso.” Studying and Conserving Paintings: Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection,  Archetype, London, 2006, pp. 113-128
“Guidoccio Cozzarelli’s Scenes from the Life of the Virgin.Studying and Conserving Paintings: Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Archetype, London, 2006, pp. 129-132
“The Re-use of a Desco da Parto.” with Mika Okawa,  Studying and Conserving Paintings: Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Archetype, London, 2006, pp. 95-98
“Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi Rediscovered.” Leonardo da Vinci’s Technical Practice: Paintings, Drawings and Influence, Hermann Éditeurs, Paris, 2014, pp. 139-152
“The Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci in the Context of Recent Research.” Leonardo da Vinci Salvator Mundi, Christie’s, New York, 2017, pp. 66-75
Masterpieces. Based on a Manuscript by Mario Modestini, and the Italian translation, Capolavori. Basato su un manoscritto di Mario Modestini, Cadmo, Casalini Editori, Firenze, Italia, 2018.

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