Figuring out what killed crazy Caravaggio
Jun24

Figuring out what killed crazy Caravaggio

“Caravaggio’s life was even darker than his paintings.” This is how Italian microbiologist Giuseppe Cornaglia began an account of his uphill battle to figure out what microbial pathogen may have killed the famous and violent 16th and 17th century Italian painter, who died under rather curious circumstances in 1610. Cornaglia is part of a growing number of researchers who look into the dental pulp of skulls found in graves, in search...

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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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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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The two Mona Lisas debate – Everybody take a breath now.
Feb14

The two Mona Lisas debate – Everybody take a breath now.

“The Mona Lisa Foundation’s mission is to make Leonardo’s ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ known and loved in its own right, as much as the version that hangs in the Louvre Museum.” This quote comes from the website of a Swiss organization that sent out a press release yesterday announcing it had new scientific proof that a painting of a younger looking Mona Lisa is the first portrait da Vinci made of the famous muse. And a maelstrom of news...

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Fake crystal Aztec skulls
Jan30

Fake crystal Aztec skulls

There’s a great report out about how the British Museum and the Smithsonian teamed up to prove that two crystal skulls, one at each museum, are actually fakes. Both skulls were purportedly made by Aztecs in Mexico prior to Columbus’ arrival. The British Museum bought its skull from Tiffany and Co. in 1897 while the Smithsonian received its skull in 1960 from an anonymous donor. Although skulls are common motifs in Aztec art, museum...

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Star Trek Replicators, Dystopian Futures, And The #foodchem Carnival
Nov16

Star Trek Replicators, Dystopian Futures, And The #foodchem Carnival

Over here at C&ENtral Science, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with a food chemistry blogging carnival. Artful Science will return to regularly scheduled programming after we manage to digest all the turkey… “Tea. Earl grey. Hot.” I never gave much thought to Jean-Luc Picard’s quintessential beverage request from the Star Trek The Next Generation replicator machine until last week. I was talking with some friends about...

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