On Thursday researchers are presenting evidence at the University of Georgia that what was thought to be an ancient sculpture was likely made much more recently. The discovery was made through a unique collaboration between art and science.
The University of Mississippi Museum loaned the sculpture to the Georgia Musuem of Art and allowed UGA to test the marble Orpheus Relief, hoping to determine how the sculpture was painted two thousand years ago. But assistant chemistry professor Tina Salguero says instead, they found pigment likely from the 1880’s to 1920.
“We found the presence of the element titanium, part of a white pigment called titanium white, that wasn’t widely used until the 18th century.”she says
Salguero explains the technology they used to study the surface of the sculpture.
“You take laser light and look at the interaction of the pigment material with the laser light. Look at the vibrations of the material. And this can give you basically a fingerprint that allows you to identify what material is there.”she says.
Assistant professor of ancient art, Mark Abbe says they believe someone sold it as the real thing to art historian David Moore Robinson. Robinson donated it to the University of Mississippi.
Abbe says “It’s not a fake or a forgery. It is, in fact, something much more interesting. It’s a modern historic replica that has been incorrectly identified as an ancient work of art for the last century.”
He says the scientific testing they used wasn’t available when Robinson published an article in 1948 authenticating the Relief.
He says the combination of art history and chemistry will lead to more unique research at UGA.
“The aim is really to continue this kind of research and to build this kind of interdisciplinary dialogue here at the University of Georgia. We’re really fortunate in that we have many of the essential tools to do this kind of research in one institution.”Abbe says
He says they are also planning to test ancient marble sculptures with remains of an ancient color, including statuary from Pompeii and its environs.