A number of prominent publications, including Forbes, National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and Archeology Magazine, have recently spotlighted the cutting-edge work of Eleonora Del Federico, professor of chemistry at Pratt Institute, and a network of scientists and researchers to restore a Roman painting in the ancient town of Herculaneum. The work was discovered in the early 20th century after being buried by soot and ash from an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D that led Herculaneum to suffer the same fate as Pompeii, which is located nearby.

 

Del Federico worked with a team that included Pratt School of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty member Cindie Kehlet, professor in the department of Math and Science, and Pratt alumnae Haerin Kang, (B.A. Fine Arts ’17) and Megan Welchel (B.A. History of Art and Design ’07), who also serves as Math and Science Lab Technician at Pratt. The coverage has focused on how the team used a portable machine provided by XGLab, that allowed them to scan the painting, a portrait of a Roman woman, using a new type of high resolution X-ray technology.

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In 2015, X-rays revealed a hidden figure in Rembrandt’s An Old Man in Military Costume. Scans of the abstract painter’s famous pieces revealed he sometimes used common house paints, rather than more pricey art oils, making him one of the first artists to do so.

The technique, which reveals how stunning the original painting was and gives information on materials and processes used to create it, could help conservators to more precisely restore the image as well as other ancient artworks.

“By unraveling the details of wall paintings that are no longer visible to the naked eye, we are in essence bringing these ancient people back to life,” Del Federico said in a press release. She believes that by learning about the quality and sophistication of a painting, characteristics such as the aspects of social life could be revealed.

Source : Sarah Gibbens , National Geographic

Read the articles in Forbes, Smithsonian Magazine, Archeology Magazine, and Sci-News.

Images: Courtesy of Roberto Alberti