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Science Advances Special Collection—Studying Heritage Art

In an atmosphere of uniform density, the most distant things seen through it, such as the mountains, in consequence of the great quantity of atmosphere which is between your eye and them, will appear blue. Therefore, you should make the building... wall which is more distant less defined and bluer... five times as far away, make five times as blue. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Da Vinci’s quote, above, describes the hills and trees in the far distance as blue, approaching the color of the sky in his painting of Ginevra de' Benci, shown on the cover of this Special Collection. By using the technique, capturing how perceived color changes with increased distance, da Vinci confirms his inherent understanding of the phenomena of light scattering, a scientific theory not formally described until hundreds of years later. Da Vinci is, perhaps, western culture’s best-known polymath, with prowess in engineering, scientific, and artistic talents. So, it is fitting that on the 500th year since his death, Science Advances publishes a collection of research displaying how the most modern tools of science – from x-ray technologies to artificial intelligence – are being used to study and document the exploration of cultural heritage objects.

This Special Collection on the Study of Heritage Art, curated by Science Advances editors Dr. Warren Warren and Dr. John Delaney, reflects the extraordinarily diverse set of technologies being used to deepen our understanding of the tools, materials, and processes used by artisans of all persuasions while advancing our understanding of basic scientific principles. The research compiled here ranges from studies addressing fundamental questions about the chemistry of materials to the use of artificial intelligence to reveal human creative processes. The research herein reconstructs ancient texts, provides insight to early human history, and explains how other new tools can be used to better understand the creation of iconic pieces of a culture. As a whole, this collection sheds light on some of the most exciting new approaches that conservation scientists are using to study the artifacts of human culture and provides data that will inform and instruct conservators and art historians for years to come.  

Introduction to Heritage Art special collection

Warren S. Warren

Editorial | Science Advances | 02-Oct-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz3323


The Structure of Musical Harmony as an Ordered Phase of Sound:

A Statistical Mechanics Approach to Music Theory

Jesse Berezovsky

Research Article | Science Advances | 17-May-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav8490


Luminescence of Coprecipitated Titanium White Pigments: Implications for Dating Modern Art

Corina E. Rogge & Julie Arslanoglu

Research Article | Science Advances | 17-May-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0679


Pigment darkening as case study of In-Air Plasma-Induced Luminescence

Barberio, M. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 07-June-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar6228


2D-IR spectroscopy for oil paint conservation: Elucidating the water-sensitive structure of zinc carboxylate clusters in ionomers

Hermans, J. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 21-June-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw3592


Visualization of vermilion degradation using pump-probe microscopy

Jin Yu, Warren S. Warren & Martin C. Fischer

Research Article | Science Advances | 21-June-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw3136


First analysis of ancient burned human skeletal remains probed by neutron and optical vibrational spectroscopy

Festa, G. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 28-June-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1292


Near UV to mid-IR reflectance imaging spectroscopy of paintings on the macroscale

Gabrieli, F. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 23-Aug-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7794


Macroscopic X-ray powder diffraction imaging reveals Vermeer's discriminating use of lead white pigments in Girl with a Pearl Earring

De Meyer, S. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 30-Aug-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax1975


Carbon speciation in organic fossils using 2D to 3D x-ray Raman multispectral imaging

Georgiou, R. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 30-Aug-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5019


Artificial Intelligence for Art Investigation: Meeting the Challenge of Separating X-ray Images of the Ghent Altarpiece

Sabetsarvestani, Z. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 30-Aug-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7416


Excited State Intramolecular Proton Transfer in Hydroxyanthraquinones: Towards Predicting Fading of Organic Red Colorants in Art

Berenbeim, J. A. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 06-Sept-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5227


The Temple Scroll: Reconstructing an Ancient Manufacturing Practice

Schuetz, R. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 06-Sept-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7494


Ancient Greek text concealed on the back of unrolled papyrus revealed through Shortwave-Infrared Hyperspectral Imaging

Tournié, A. et al.

Research Article | Science Advances | 04-Oct-2019 | DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav8936

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