Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tests show crystalline structure of 15th century Italian monument genuine artifact

Science News Online: An Italian marble tomb, long suspected by critics of being an art fake palmed off on America, has been proved an authentic treasure, after 9 years of scientific testing.

At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where the tomb aroused such violent controversy that it was removed from public exhibition, the case is settled.

Reporting its verdict, the museum calls the tomb a fifteenth-century monument of Tuscan workmanship, later restored in minor ways. A beautiful figure of a woman lying with folded hands is a feature of the monument.

Scientific tests included making paper-thin slices of samples from all 14 pieces of marble in the tomb. These samples were studied under the microscope and compared with similar samples of known kinds of marble. This test, like that of human fingerprints, is consider unmistakable. The tomb is of two kinds of marble, the famous Carrara marble and some from Olympia. Chisel marks were also examined by microscope, and ultraviolet tests were made.

The crystalline structure of the marble's surface was also studied, because scientists have learned that old marbles "breathe," that is, take in and give out air. In long years, this process leaves evidence in dark bands on the marble surface, visible through the microscope. This evidence of time and weathering was found on all parts of the tomb except where a new inscription was added, and a few restorations made.