When Robert Ross asks if you would like to come up to his bedroom and see his engravings, the Robb Report's creative director has no ulterior motive. His bedroom gallery is hung with 15 pieces from his collection of rare 15th century northern European engravings, which range from an early religious scene by Master ES, circa 1455, to "The Assumption of the Virgin," circa 1475, by Martin Schongauer, whom Ross considers the greatest German engraver of that century. His Italian modern bed is the only significant piece of furniture. A single window has a blackout shade and is rarely opened. "The bedroom is the quietest and most contemplative room in the house," he says. "I love being able to get up at any time of night and look at these wonderful pieces. There are no museum hours."
Light, humidity and temperature are the primary conservation issues when collecting works on paper, which is why ancient engravings and etchings are rarely on permanent display in museums. When Ross acquires a new engraving, he often heads to Mark Watters, of L.A.'s Aitchison and Watters, a conservator who stabilizes works on paper damaged by glue residue, hinge remnants or insects to prevent further deterioration. Each engraving is framed behind Plexiglas UF-3 (slightly tinted) or Acrylite OP-2 (clear), which cuts more than 90% of harmful ultraviolet rays. Unlike most collectors, Ross cuts and mounts the artwork himself onto acid-free mats, attaching them with wheat paste that doesn't interact with the print.