Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Chemistry Meets Art during National Chemistry Week

Chestertown, MD, November 6, 2001 — Washington College's Department of Chemistry, as part of its National Chemistry Week celebration, presents "Chemistry Meets Art: The Case of the Early Christian Sculptures at Cleveland," a lecture by Donald McColl, chair of the Department of Art. The talk will be held Thursday, November 8, 2001, at 7:30 p.m., in Goldstein Hall, Room 100, Wingate Lecture Hall. Refreshments will be served at 7 p.m. Please note, this talk has been rescheduled from November 7.
McColl traveled to Turkey in 1988 to conduct archaeological work on the question of the origins and authenticity of several early Christian sculptures from the 3rd century held in the Cleveland Museum's collection. Known as "The Jonah Marbles," this sculptural ensemble astonished the art world when it was introduced to the public in 1965, not only for its superb quality and condition, but also for its very survival. These controversial sculptures conformed to a language of symbols developed by early Christians, but appeared Roman in execution--unlike most Christian art from that era.
In order to authenticate this amazing discovery, McColl convinced the Cleveland Museum to carry out stable signature isotopic marble analyses, a chemical process that showed that the Roman Imperial quarries at Docimium in Ancient Phrygia (now Central Turkey) were the source for the marble from which the sculptures were carved. His talk will reveal how the humanities and sciences can work together to find answers to questions of great cultural significance.
"This cross-disciplinary approach is an important lesson for our students," said McColl. "Scientific knowledge and methods can greatly enhance our understanding of art history."

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