When science helps art

CLICK HERE TO GO BACK TO THE NEWSLETTER

Some fields of human endeavour rarely meet, and their number includes science and art. And yet, science can be art’s ally, especially when it comes to loss adjusting.

As technology has become smaller in recent years, it can be used by loss adjusters and researchers in the field. They are also now more accurate and less invasive than ever before. Here are a few examples.

Early this year, news came from Egypt of new discoveries in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities confirmed that they had used radar technology to reveal the existence of secret rooms behind the Pharaoh’s burial chamber.  Since then, the Ministry has been seeing which techniques it could use to effectively and non-invasively survey what these rooms contain. They are also looking at plans to remove the adjoining wall to avoid damaging its fresco. Whatever they turn out to be, Egyptologists and those with a passion for Ancient Egypt are waiting with baited breath to see which solutions are chosen.

 

Golden Mask of egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, Replica

With regard to 3D modelling, the use of a handheld scanner means that sculptures can now be analysed in situ. A computer comparison of the original sculpture and the one to be surveyed will then reveal any spatial distortions, with submillimetre precision. If doubts arise concerning a certain piece’s authenticity, it is becoming possible to confirm its status using tangible proof that would be admissible in court. If a piece is damaged, the loss of matter can be quantified by rebuilding the fragments of the sculpture.

Analysis techniques can also be used to identify the materials used when creating the object, as well as in any restoration work. They thereby help to recreate the history of a piece in its entirety. In this light, the history of a statuette of a Mesopotamian goddess on show in the Louvre is particularly telling. Discovered in a Babylonian necropolis and then donated to the museum in 1866, it was for many years described as being made from alabaster with eyes incrusted with red glass.

The French Museum Restoration and Research Centre ran analyses using AGLAE (Accélérateur Grand Louvre d’Analyse Elémentaire). The only facility of its kind in the world running from inside a museum, AGLAE is used exclusively to analyse heritage pieces. For its analyses, it uses methods such as X-ray emissions and nuclear reactions which offer the advantage of being non-destructive.

After studying the results, it was revealed that the statuette’s eyes had always been made of ruby. The analyses even revealed, by examining their inclusions, that the rubies came from Burma, opening up a new avenue for historical research into trade between that region and Persia.

In conclusion, whether they are used by loss adjusters following an incident, or on intact pieces before an incident occurs, scientific analysis is truly a boon for insurers.

Diane MACCURY
Art and Media loss adjuster – GM Consultant Group