Was antiquity really so tacky?
May20

Was antiquity really so tacky?

The ancient Greeks did it, and now the Phoenicians too. Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly clear that many of the white marble statues from Greece’s golden era were originally painted in garish colors. The discovery of pigment residues on a multitude of classical era sculpture has been a boon for lovers of kitsch and a downer for pretty much everybody else. Yeah yeah, I know it’s good to know The Truth, and it is...

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A brief hiatus: Onwards to Uzbekistan
Apr05

A brief hiatus: Onwards to Uzbekistan

My apologies for a few weeks hiatus over here at Artful Science. Last summer I got married and we are finally off on our honeymoon to Uzbekistan (aka the honeystan) where we will explore some awesome Silk Road architecture. Given that we’ll be looking at a lot of mosaics, I thought I’d point you to this post on the conservation of tile art and the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry. See you at the end of...

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Gold gilding, ancient amber and a mysterious hidden sculpture: A new cultural heritage journal launches!
Apr03

Gold gilding, ancient amber and a mysterious hidden sculpture: A new cultural heritage journal launches!

There’s beautiful gold gilding at Reales Alcazares royal palace in Seville, Spain. Yet it turns out that the pretty gold gilding you see in the image on the left is not precisely original. The World Heritage Site was originally built in 914 AD, and then expanded from the 14th to the 16th century. Recently, Spanish researchers found a layer of paint lying below the gold gilding that contains lead chromate, a pigment that wasn’t used...

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Daisies, frankincense, mint, and mercury help preserve Richard the Lionheart’s heart
Mar07

Daisies, frankincense, mint, and mercury help preserve Richard the Lionheart’s heart

This is a guest blog post from Stu Borman, a C&EN senior correspondent for science, technology & education. A French-based research team recently had a rare opportunity to get to the heart—quite literally—of some 12th century European history. Using a battery of scientific equipment, they took a closer look at how the heart of English king Richard I was preserved for posterity. Also known as Richard the Lionheart because of...

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Photo fraud: eBay to the rescue!
Feb25

Photo fraud: eBay to the rescue!

In the 1990s the market for photos exploded. As snapshots started selling for millions of dollars, sham photos also slipped into the fray before the art world had any way to authenticate originals. And so cultural heritage researchers had to play some serious catch-up, and quickly. That’s the gist of my recent cover story on photo conservation. It explores how two fraud cases helped turn the field from a niche research area to a...

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