• Fri. Sep 29th, 2023

News Eyeo

All Important News

Ancient World Lecture: Exploring Pliny, Pigments, and Painters


Sep 12, 2023

Ancient Roman

Join Hilary Becker, a renowned authority on ancient pigments, as she discusses her research on Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia or Natural History (77 CE). Becker studied the ancient Roman text seeking insight into artisanal materials commonly used by artists of the time, like gold foil, Egyptian blue, and shellfish purple. In her discussion of this research, Becker shares what Pliny can tell us about the marketing and use of pigments during this period of Roman history before sitting down with Art Institute conservation scientist Giovanni Verri and curator Katharine Raff to search the museum’s collection for traces of ancient color.

This examination is particularly opportune, as we celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Pliny’s birth, and as the Art Institute, like many institutions, engages in ongoing research on ancient painting techniques. This program is generously sponsored by the Boshell Family Foundation.

About the Speakers

Hilary Becker is an associate professor of Classical Studies at Binghamton University (SUNY). She earned her BA at Bryn Mawr College and her MA and PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Becker’s work on ancient color was first inspired by her work on a Roman imperial pigment shop from the excavations of Sant’ Omobono in Rome. She is currently writing a book on the economy of the Roman pigment industry, entitled, Commerce in Color. In her research and teaching, Dr. Becker combines her interests in materials and networks of exchange and interaction to explore topics that expose the inner workings of both art forms and lived experiences in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Katharine A. Raff is the Elizabeth McIlvaine Associate Curator of the Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium at the Art Institute of Chicago. Since joining the department in 2011, Katharine has played a significant role in a number of major projects, including the comprehensive reinstallation of the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art (2012), as well as exhibitions and installations including A Portrait of Antinous in Two Parts (2016) and Collecting Stories (2019). She edited and co-authored Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (2017), the most extensive publication to date of an area of the Art Institute’s holdings in ancient Mediterranean art. Her recent projects have explored such topics as Etruscan architectural sculpture and Byzantine textiles, and she is currently working on plans for a full reinstallation of the Roman gallery. Raff holds an MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the Art Institute, she was awarded fellowships from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Fulbright Foundation.

Since 2019, Giovanni Verri has been a conservation scientist in the Department of Conservation and Science. He holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Ferrara, Italy, and an MA in Conservation of Wall Paintings from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, UK. His research interests include the development and application of investigative techniques for the analysis of color. In 2007, he developed an imaging technique called visible-induced luminescence imaging, through which it is possible to map the presence of Egyptian blue, a very commonly used blue pigment in antiquity, even when otherwise invisible to the naked eye. This has led to interesting discoveries about the use of color in antiquity and beyond, including how blue was used in the skin tones of the mummy portraits at the Art Institute.

Please note that this is an in-person event that takes place at the museum. In accordance with state and City of Chicago guidelines, visitors to the museum are no longer required to wear masks or provide proof of vaccination. Anyone who would like to continue to wear a mask is welcome to do so. Learn more about our visiting policies and what to expect. If you have any questions about programming, please reach out to museum-programs@artic.edu. Closed captioning will be available for this program. For questions related to accessibility accommodations, please email access@artic.edu.

This lecture is generously sponsored by the Boshell Family Foundation.

By Editor

Leave a Reply