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Saturday, June 1 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Book and Paper) Going Beyond Appearance: Use of Imaging Technology for the Examination of Hidden Paint Layers in a Gulistan of Sa’di from the Freer Collection

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Multi-spectral imaging technology is gaining increasing importance for the investigation of artworks on paper. It is non-invasive and relatively easy to implement, and provides valuable information about materials and working methods of the artists. Its exploitation for curatorial and technical research in the field of Islamic art on paper is not as widely adopted, but it is believed to be particularly promising.

Islamic miniature paintings are complex objects with no set structure, which are often extensively modified throughout their history in response to changes in style and ownership. The Gulistan of Sa’di from the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, is an especially notable and illustrative example of these practices. The manuscript was copied in 1468-69 in Herat, capital of the Timurid Empire. It then travelled to Tabriz, where lavishly illuminated borders were added around the mid of the 1540s at the royal workshop of the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasb. Under the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-57), the original illustrations were completely repainted by some of the most respected artists of the court, but tantalizing traces of the earlier paintings can be seen on the opposite sides of the folios as discolored areas produced by copper-based pigments.

A thorough imaging campaign aimed at revealing as much as possible of these pre-existing paintings was performed as part of a fellowship funded by the Smithsonian Institution and hosted by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC. The main tool used for this purpose was the VSC 6000, a high resolution multi-spectral imaging system manufactured by Foster and Freeman, and designed for forensic investigation of questioned documents. Examinations using reflected and transmitted visible light, UV light and reflected and transmitted IR light were performed with this instrument. Additional pivotal information was acquired with X-ray computed radiography and a targeted use of XRF undertaken in the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the Freer Gallery of Art.

From an art historical perspective, the investigation successfully exposed sections of the underlying paintings, allowing comparisons between Persian and Indian depictions of the same subject. From a technical standpoint, it drew attention to the potential and limitations offered by the implemented equipment, and to the specific challenges involved in the investigation of Islamic miniature paintings. This research also offered an opportunity to devise a method that coherently brings together the complementary information obtained in the different spectral regions.

Speakers
avatar for Emily Jacobson

Emily Jacobson

Paper & Photographs Conservator, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
BM

Blythe McCarthy

Andrew W. Mellon Senior Scientist, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Blythe McCarthy is the Andrew W. Mellon Senior Scientist at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. She received her doctorate in materials science from Johns Hopkins University and has held fellowships at the Getty Conservation Institute and the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Science. Her research interests include the technical study of ceramic and metal objects, and the development of... Read More →
EP

Elisabetta Polidori

Morse Paper Conservation Fellow, Museum of Fine Arts
Elisabetta Polidori is Morse Paper Conservation Fellow at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Before taking up this role, Elisabetta was Smithsonian Postgraduate Conservation Fellow at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, where she spent a year performing research on artworks from the Islamic collection. Elisabetta holds a BA in Art History from the University of Florence and a MA in Conservation of Paper and Parchment from the... Read More →


Saturday June 1, 2013 2:00pm - 2:30pm
JW Marriott White River Ballroom E 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

Attendees (22)