The Science in Art: Applications of Pump-Probe Microscopy
Tana Villafana (Duke Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Imaging)
The interplay of art and science is subtle, but important. Art conservators need strong support from the scientific community in order to address the many issues that arise during preservation. Uncovering the ideal or original state of an object is vital to ensuring its proper restoration. For a painting, this may include identifying the nature and source of the pigments; the thickness and composition of layers that give rise to the texture and depth of the final appearance, or even identifying degradation pathways and products of certain aged pigments. For pottery, low- and high-fired pieces require different treatments, which will also depend on the nature of the glaze and the chemical components of the clay. Optical pump-probe microscopy provides threedimensional, chemical specific images of historical pigments, with far reaching applications for conservation science. Demonstrated applications here include the geo-sourcing of lapis lazuli, a historically important blue pigment, completely non-destructive depth imaging on a 14th century painting, differentiation of earth pigments applied to inferring pottery firing conditions, and distinction between cadmium yellow and its degradation products in a cross section taken from The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse.