Art meets science in the analysis of an ancient dancing horse statue

1300 years old sculpture Dancing horses – a relic of China’s Tang Dynasty – have taken over an ancient tradition of trained horses performing for emperors.

But the curators of the Cincinnati Museum of Art weren’t fascinated by one feature of the lifelike 8th-century statue: the forehead tassel that they suspected was not original.

How to investigate without damaging the precious art?

Scientists came down to help figure it out.

The artist’s stone mosaic is a life-size homage to the Renaissance anatomist

Sophisticated analytical techniques helped solve the mystery – and revealed more about the object’s history.

To get answers, restoration guards had to agree to give away parts of the irreplaceable 26-inch art in the name of science. An international team of researchers analyzed 11 small etched samples, each weighing a few milligrams. Taken from various locations on the Mud Horse, the samples were subjected to a range of different tests.

By analyzing everything from the chemistry of the samples to the molecular structure, the scientists made the most of the powder’s tiny piles.

One technique, powder X-ray diffraction, studies how X-rays behave when trained on a metal or other substance that has been ground into a powder. Different materials bend rays in different ways, and this technique can help determine the mixture of materials or the composition of even very small samples.

Other techniques included Raman spectroscopy, which looks at how the light of a laser beam is scattered when it strikes the sample.

Researchers describe Investigation In Heritage Science.

Scientists learned that the tassel was not made of clay, but rather was made of gypsum with animal glue. Other tassels on horse saddles revealed evidence of multiple repairs over the generations.

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Eventually, discovering the tassel wasn’t original led the museum to remove it.

The study will help restoration supervisors determine how best to keep the horse in good condition. in the news ReleasePietro Stropea, the University of Cincinnati associate professor of chemistry who led the research, says he will continue to analyze the objects for museums throughout the Midwest.

The restored statue, and other drawings of horses throughout China’s long history, will still exist Show In the museum starting October 7.

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