Monday, July 19, 2010
Smoke and Mirrors: Forensic Science, Art, and Democracy
Leonardo da Vinci didn’t invent the sfumato technique, which produced the “smoky” effects of masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, but he may have perfected it. For centuries, art experts have longed to discover Leonardo’s secret. Until recently, to uncover that secret, part of the work itself would need to be destroyed. Today, however, we no longer need to “murder to dissect.” Using noninvasive x-ray fluorescence, a French team peered into the layers Leonardo meticulously applied to create Mona’s smoky eyes and enigmatic smile. Going where no art connoisseur had ever gone before, have these scientists made the soft science of art expertise obsolete? Or are art forensics just the latest version of smoke and mirrors? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Smoke and Mirrors."