Brookhaven Lecture

"472nd Brookhaven Lecture: 'Ancient Materials and Artworks Illuminated by Synchrotron Light'"

Presented by Eric Dooryhee, Photon Sciences Dept.

Thursday, November 17, 2011, 4:00 pm — Berkner Hall Auditorium

Think of eye makeup in ancient Egypt â€" or pigments and concealed details under the surface of renowned masters' oil paintings â€" or the Mayan Blue pigment that survives to this day on the walls of ancient temples of Mesoamerica. These fascinating items from the world's cultural heritage have one thing in common: all are subjects of scientific investigation using synchrotron light techniques at facilities such as the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). As Dooryhee will explain, a synchrotron is an exceptionally powerful source of "light" (from x-rays to infrared), which permits fast, sensitive experiments to be done without damage on minute samples of objects, using a range of analytical techniques and allowing measurements to be made below the surface. Lately, researchers examining historic artifacts have developed advanced methods and instrumentation that can also help in diagnosing deterioration processes with a view to inventing protective treatments. Dooryhee will show how these techniques, including several that he has worked with himself, have shed light on whether ancient eye makeup could have been a medicine, and on the cause of darkening pigments in paintings such as Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" or Matisse's "Le Bonheur de Vivre," as well as on how to uncover artwork concealed beneath paintings, and how to mimic Mayan Blue to produce durable, non-toxic modern pigments.

Hosted by: Stephen Musolino

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