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Parts 1-4: Stem to steAm: The Science of Art


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Introduction:  Using Science to Shed New Light on Art*
September 25, 2013

This session will introduce the distinguishing properties of materials, including: minerals, metals, ceramics, glass, and biomaterials. Participants will learn how Walters’ staff use light--both visible and non-visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum--to discover the materials and processes of artistic production. Participants will explore scientific instrumentation, including techniques  to identify chemical elements, compounds, and mixtures. Case studies involving ancient Egyptian materials and the Archimedes Palimpsest will highlight discoveries achieved through scientific examination.


Ancient: How Old is it?
October 23, 2013


How one determines the date of an object is a complex question. Any investigation must combine both curatorial knowledge about style and function as well as the scientific knowledge of materials and techniques.  In some cases, as with ceramics and wood, scientific techniques are used to determine the date of manufacture. Most other times it is not as straightforward. In this session we will use case studies from both the ancient Mediterranean world and the New World to illustrate how science and technology can be used to answer questions concerning the dating and authenticity of an artwork.


Medieval and Renaissance: What is a Fake?
November 20, 2013

Using technical studies of works in the Walters' collection, participants will attempt to answer the question: What is a fake?  Conservators, conservation scientists, and curators all study works of art from different perspectives.  When their observations are focused on a single work of art, many questions can be answered, but others--often concerning authenticity and dating--can also surface.  This session will use case studies with terra cotta, ivory, and enameled objects to reveal some of the questions that have been addressed and the techniques used to answer them.


Italian Paintings: Is it “Real?”
December 11, 2013

Using examples from the paintings collection, participants will focus on distinguishing the characteristics of a “real” Renaissance work from a forgery.  While an image from the 14th to the 17th century may appear characteristic of the period, the materials that produced that image might actually be from a later era. Participants will learn how conservators analyze the materials and specific details in a painting to detect clues that lead to the discovery of fakes.