Plautilla Nelli, a female living in Renaissance Italy, was awarded the freedom to paint due to her station in life as a nun. This post explores the history, conservation, and technical analysis of her ‘Last Supper’. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain) Continue reading Ahead of her time: Plautilla Nelli and her everlasting ‘Last Supper’
The Maya blue hybrid pigment is a predecessor of the modern nanocomposite. It is made of indigo and different types of clay. In this article, scientists unveil the secrets behind the synthesis of Maya blue and its use in Pre-Columbian and Colonial codices using non-invasive techniques. Continue reading Maya in blues. Investigations on Maya blue shades in Mesoamerican codices
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by plastic artefacts shed light on degradation processes affecting modern art collections. Mass spectrometry can “smell” VOCs and identify the degree of degradation of artefacts to help plan conservation strategies.
Continue reading The scent of the past: Classifying works of art by their smell
When working with historic texts, people are usually concerned about how they may harm the book, not how the book may harm them. Explore this post to learn about some 16-17th century books with potentially toxic components that were found in libraries at the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Southern Denmark. Continue reading Don’t lick your hands: Arsenic pigments used in 16-17th c. bookbinding
Archaeologists in Herculaneum, south of Italy, discovered a black, glassy material that turned out to be… a human brain. Continue reading A brain found in glass pieces
Historically, artists have used arsenic pigments, among other poisonous materials, since antiquity. Beautiful but deadly arsenic pigments were not only dangerous for the artists but also are dangerous for the objects: they can readily degrade and react with other components of the complex paint system, producing irreversible damage. Continue reading Deadly beautiful pigments: How arsenic sulfide pigment degradation affects the degradation of paintings
Non-invasive techniques are always at the forefront of a conservation scientist’s mind when working with historic artifacts. But how do we apply these techniques to stained glass windows? Check out this article about using MA-XRF as a first step for understanding the composition of medieval stained glass windows and how they were colored. Continue reading Distinguishing the composition of medieval stained glass windows using x-rays
Everyone has seen a fluorescent painting, but did you know fluorescence (or more-generally photoluminescence) is an effect that may be used to study cultural heritage? Fluorescence phenomena give information about a broad spectrum of materials in a non-invasive manner. Continue reading A fluorescent party: Fluorescence spectroscopy for non-invasive characterization of artwork
Analysis of dyes in textiles is particularly challenging given the complex nature of the mixtures used in their weaving. A novel separation method based on 2-Dimensional Liquid Chromatography shows promise for unraveling what illusive colorants lie within the weave.
Continue reading Untangling the complexity of dyes in historic textiles
Today, some of the most prominent contemporary artists are ditching their paintbrushes and pencils for biological matter like plants, animals, bacteria, and, even, human blood and skin. Wondering how these artworks will last? This post (and an upcoming symposium) will discuss the challenges, ethics, and methods of conserving these unconventional works. Image credit: moca.org Continue reading Decomposing art: How museum professionals treat living matter