Lecture on Molecular Sciences and Cultural Heritage by Antonio Sgamelloti
The exciting new developments in the application of advanced science and technology in the study, conservation and protection of cultural heritage were the focus of the lecture by Prof. Antonio Sgamellotti (Prof. Emeritus of the University of Perugia and member of the prestigious Accademia dei Lincei) held at the Cyprus Institute (CyI) on Thursday, September 27. The well-attended event was part of the ‘Enrico Fermi’ lecture series, co-organized by CyI and the Embassy of Italy in Cyprus, represented at the event by His Excellency Mr. Andrea Cavallari, the Italian Ambassador in Cyprus. The lecture was held in the context of the ‘2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage’ and part of the events for the ‘Italian Research Day’. Prof. Sgamellotti’s visit to Cyprus was organized within the wider context of E-RIHS, the European Infrastructure on Heritage Science featuring a workshop held at CyI’s APAC Laboratories with the additional participation of Prof. Franco Niccolucci, from PIN, The University of Florence.
Following an introduction to the scientific achievements and deep humanist background of the celebrated nuclear scientist Enrico Fermi by CyI President Prof. Costas Papanicolas and an overview of the speaker’s scientific career by Assoc. Professor Sorin Hermon, Prof. Sgamellotti offered a captivating presentation on the birth and establishment of Heritage Science as a discipline and the conceptualization, implementation and scientific activities of MOLAB, the first European mobile laboratory for in-situ non-invasive analyses of works of art and archaeological artefacts. Such concepts were inspirational for similar initiatives around the globe, among them the CyI’s intervention unit for Heritage at Risk, the STARLAB mobile laboratory and a major component of the Andreas Pittas Art Characterization Laboratories (APAC Labs), which was described by Prof. Sgamellotti during his lecture as an evolution from the initial MOLAB.
Specifically, Prof. Sgamellotti presented MOLAB’s approach to the analytical study of the materiality of paintings by Renaissance masters such as Perugino and Rafael, but also famed modern artists like Mondrian and Burri and the contribution of such analyses to their art historical study and preservation. Analytical results have revealed new information about the technique, pigment materials, but also the choices made by artists in the execution and technical construction of their works. Prof. Sgamellotti also presented the role of 3D documentation and visualization in efforts to conserve sculptural works like Michelangelo’s David or the importance of non-invasive techniques in the preservation of Gino De Domenicis monumental sculpture, Calamita Cosmica. Finally, the speaker presented work on illuminated manuscripts from pre-Colombian Mexico as well as peculiar optical properties of Renaissance lustre applied on ceramics bowls and plates.
Overall, the lecture of Prof. Sgamellotti highlighted the significance of truly interdisciplinary approaches to the study and protection of cultural heritage, balancing humanities-driven inquiries and interpretations with the analytical possibilities of advanced scientific and technological methods. His visit at CyI and APAC Labs also provided the opportunity for planning a series of collaborative workshops and projects in the context of European and international initiatives and consortia such as E-RIHS (European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science), ARIADNE (Advanced Research Infrastructure for Archaeological Dataset Networking in Europe) and establish collaborations with CERHER (the Centre on Resilience of Cultural Heritage).