One last look at the marbles

Just before the holidays, Mark the marble guy dropped by the NCMA to take one last look at the classical marble sculptures before he could hand over his reports and catalogue entries. Again we had to work in the dark galleries of the museum, but luckily we didn’t have to start as late as before… the sun sets much sooner in winter!

Assisted by Caroline “the Younger” (who was my intern in the spring), we reexamined the troublesome Hercules and just a few other sculptures with Mark’s nifty and very powerful flashlight, his new portable microscope and under ultraviolet lights. We also took photographs (UV and VIL/IRR) of details based on our earlier “night at the museum” sessions.  This should be the last examination of the marbles and the research on these works of art is pretty much completed… but the project continues with the study of other ancient objects from different Classical cultures and made from different materials.

Art in Bloom (Greece and Rome)

Continuing with on my floral and spring theme, today I present the four floral arrangements that were in the Classical galleries.  These cover more square footage than the Egyptian space and more floral designs could be incorporated.

Inspired by Aphrodite of Cyrene
Floral design by Carol Inskeep

Orchid arrangement inspired by the marble statue of Aphrodite

Orchid arrangement inspired by the marble statue of Aphrodite

Photographing against a sunny background is not ideal, but you see Aphrodite as an elegant silhouette. Placed behind her was an arrangement of white orchids coming out of glass vessel placed in a square container with blue glass pebbles…   just like the beautiful goddess emerging from the sea! I thought this design very witty and elegant. (My fave of those in the Classical galleries.)

Inspired by Head of a Woman in the Guise of a Goddess
Floral design by Gene Harbaugh

Floral arrangement next to the bronze head of a woman

Floral arrangement next to the bronze head of a woman

This design is well paired with the bronze female head, especially in terms of colour. It is simple, elegant and feminine, but not overly so. A sort of wreath. Yet, the squat bouquet leaves me wanting more…

 

 

Inspired by a Greek Hydria
Floral design by Sally Robinson

Arrangement of dried flowers inspired by a water jar (hydria)

Arrangement of dried flowers inspired by a water jar (hydria)

This one left me thoughtful… the dried flowers were an interesting component playing with the earth-tone colours of the ceramics in the gallery.  However, the fact that a hydria is a jar used specifically for carrying water is lost (although the vase was the colour of the seas).

 

 

Inspired by Herakles
Floral design by Jinny Marino

Flowers for Herakles

Flowers for Herakles

Interestingly, the use of the anthurium, a plant with a rather phallic red spadix, brings a touch of masculinity to the arrangement. Well, it is inspired by a statue of Herakles, a very burly one at that!  The added metal elements make reference to the Herculean strength of our marble man. Pun intended.  Herakles is the Greek version of Hercules.

I have come to the conclusion that my favourite floral arrangements at Art in Bloom were simple with crisp and elegant vertical lines; very contemporary looking.  Enjoy the arrival of spring!

Gamma radiography

This is the last of my posts on the intensive study of the marbles conducted in early June (at least for now!). In addition to polychromy, we did something that was never before done at the museum (and probably never will be done again): gamma radiography! Two of our marble sculptures (Bacchus and Hercules) posed questions that could only be answered by radiography. We tried x-rays, which we can do in our conservation lab, but these were not strong enough to allow us to see through the marble. We had to go for industrial strength radiography which uses gamma rays. Baker Testing (the company who worked on the Juno at the MFA Boston) did this for us.

Gamma radiography is radioactive, so we had to find a room at the museum that had thick concrete walls and was away from work areas. We did find one, underground, off the art tunnel. We restricted tunnel access to team members and we stayed well clear of the radiography area—all of us geeky enough to know that Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk after being exposed to the rays of a gamma bomb. (None of us wanted to turn green and Kermit the Frog will tell you’ it’s not easy being green!) The radiation zone was actually quite small (we checked with the Geiger counter). The radioactive source was contained in a small Ghostbusters-like unit to which was attached a collimator that focused the beam on the part of the sculpture that needed to be studied. A plate just like those used in x-rays was placed behind the limb to record the information.

We spent the whole day with the guys from Baker Testing, checking the radiographs after they scanned them into their computer, discussing what we were seeing, asking for shots at different angles or more penetration. At the end of the day, Hercules did not turn into Hulk-cules (I have been wanting to say this for weeks!), but while some questions were answered with the gamma, others remain for Mark to puzzle out. The knowledge acquired from those gamma radiographs will help us with the conservation of Bacchus, a major project to be undertaken over the next few years. We could see the rather long metal pins and c-clamps we knew would be holding him together, but we also realized that he suffered a major catastrophic incident that shattered his right side—this resulted in more pins, pegs, clamps, which we could not have seen without the gamma.