Bringing the sculpture's head and patterns on the helmet to life.
Photo from Stiftung Archaeologie
This week’s readings make us look at the connection between science and art. Podany and Scott use the “Getty” kouros to show how science and knowledge of ancient artistic techniques were essential to discovering the art’s authenticity. Sheldon mentions the importance of teaching inexperienced art historians the value of technical analysis and the ability to communicate and display their findings to the public. Will the new hybrid field of technical art history change conservation? What can we learn about a piece using current technology and how much do we really want to know? X-ray chromatography, infrared spectroscopy, and microscopic analysis can reveal everything from the origin of the piece to its original appearance.
The "real" Mona Lisa through Pascal Cotte's 240-megapixel Multi-spectral Imaging Camera.
The knowledge gained from this technology is both stimulating and valuable, but is only one part of the process. How do museums display their findings? Does presenting this extra data distract from or enhance the experience of the art? Should exhibits present the technical details as irrefutable facts? Brinkmann states in both articles how hard it is to look past our prejudgments of ancient sculptures, especially from Greece and Italy, and accept their painting as its own art form. Blansdorf and Yin indicate that we know ancient Chinese sculptures were painted before and after the terracotta army, yet we still have trouble imagining them fully painted. Even without remnants of pigmentation, scientists and art historians can recreate more truthful representations of art like “Augustus of Prima Porta” and the entire terracotta army. From the readings, it is apparent how imperative cooperation between scientists and art historians is. Art conservation could not thrive without both. It will be interesting to see how future generations will accept the information we are finding today and what new technology will reveal about art.
Pigment remnants on a terracotta army warrior.
Photo from chinapictures.org