Science in Art: Technical Examination of 17th Century Dutch Paintings

This seven credit, two course sequence will develop students' fundamental understanding of certain physical, chemical, biological, and geological concepts and utilize that vocabulary and knowledge to discuss 17th century Dutch Art.

The emphasis in this series of courses will be on key aspects of optics, light, and chemical bonding needed to understand how a painting "works" and how art conservators analyze paintings in terms of conservation and authenticity using techniques such as X-ray radiography, X-ray powder diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, Raman microscopy, infrared spectroscopy, infrared microscopy, infrared reflectography, gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, UV-vis spectroscopy, UV photography, and laser ablation methods.

When possible, the course will develop modern notions of science with those of the 17th century in order to see how 17th century science influenced 17th century art. The choice of 17th century Holland is logical from a scientific/conservation standpoint, but also poses interesting artistic questions from the standpoint of politics, religion, and economics. Consequently, the second half of the course involves a survey of 17th century Dutch history, art history, etc., which links the scientific analysis to the art and culture of the time.

The first twelve weeks of the course (CHEM 157, 3 credits, Winter 2010, GE5c) involving primarily the scientific and technical background will occur at W&L during the winter term. The second four weeks of the course (ARTH 357 4 credits, Spring 2010, GE4) involving primarily the art history, politics, religion, economics, etc., will occur for a few days at W&L and then for about 24 days at the Center for European Studies (CES) Universiteit Maastricht.

Trips to the following locations will transpire: The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), the Amsterdams Historisch Museum (Amsterdam), the AMOLF-FOM Institute (key scientific laboratory for the MOLART and de Mayerne Projects, Amsterdam), The Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem), the Grote Kerk St. Bavo (Haarlem), the Mauritshuis and Mauritshuis conservation lab (The Hague), Stedelijk Museum Het Prinzenhof (Delft), the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (Delft), Boijmans van Beuningen Museum (Rotterdam), Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Antwerp), Rubenshuis (Antwerp), Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady, Bonnefanten Museum (Maastricht), Basilica of St. Servatius (Maastricht), and the Basilica of Our Lady (Maastricht), Sint Janskerk (Maastricht). In The Netherlands, students will also receive guest lectures from faculty at Universiteit Maastricht, as well as the opportunity to see the conservation laboratories at some of the major Dutch art museums.

The working language at CES Maastricht is English, and essentially all Dutch people are typically fluent in at least Dutch, English, German, and French, so students will not have to learn a foreign language to participate in the program. However, students will be expected to learn key phrases in Dutch as a matter of courtesy to citizens of the host country, and students will be expected to be sensitive and polite regarding the manners and customs of The Netherlands.

Instructor: Dr. Erich Uffelman