Technology for Technology’s Sake: The Technical Study of Gothic Miniature Boxwood Carvings in the Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario
This paper describes the evolution and results of a technical study that focused initially on the Thomson Collection of miniature boxwood carvings at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). This work eventually became the AGO’s impetus for its participation in an international exhibit “Small Wonders,” organized with the Rijksmuseum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The technical work on early sixteenth century miniature boxwood carvings, which includes both prayer beads and miniature altarpieces, started with X-radiography at the Royal Ontario Museum, followed with in-house photography using a cutting edge but now somewhat more common specialized macro set-up, and ultimately micro-computed tomography (CT) scanning, or high-resolution X-ray micro-computed tomography at Sustainable Archaeology, Western University, London Ontario and Advanced 3D Analysis software (ORS) at the AGO. Secondary digital files were used in “Small Wonders: the VR Experience,” wherein users could enter into a dramatically magnified virtual prayer bead. Scientific analysis of a selection of the artifacts’ coatings, polychromy and adhesives was undertaken by the Canadian Conservation Institute using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR); scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS); thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS); and Raman spectroscopy.
KeywordsTechnical study Boxwood Miniature carving Prayer beads Nuts Micro CT scanning Advanced 3D analysis software
For their support of the technical work carried out on the Thomson Collection, the authors would like to acknowledge the extraordinary support of the AGO, and in particular, Maria Sullivan, Angela Glover, Wendy Hebditch and Margaret Haupt of the Art Gallery of Ontario and Annick Lapotre and David Franklin of TWAL. The online catalogue raisonné and digital photography campaign was made possible through the generous support of Thomson Works of Art. We would also like to acknowledge the dedicated staff and support of the Sustainable Archaeology facility, particularly Zoe Morris and Rhonda Bathurst, at the University of Western Ontario and the staff at ORS, in particular Eric Fournier. Further thanks are owed to exhibition partners at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum as well as the support of the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab and Seneca College for the development and distribution of “Small Wonders: the VR Experience.”
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