The Science of Art Restoration, Identification

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Tadeusz Malinski is a professor of biomedical sciences at Ohio University, but he previously taught the science of art in Europe.

A painter since childhood, he began to take an interest in how science can help identify paintings of unknown authors, as well as how to restore damaged works.

His quest led him to develop nanosensors, which are about 300 times smaller than a single human hair.

These tiny sensors could fit into the fine cracks of old paintings and analyze the "fingerprint" of particular substances in the works.

Later, Malinski would adapt similar nanotechnology for the detection of nitric oxide in the human heart and vasculature.

Understanding the action of nitric oxide in the body has led to treatments for heart disease, stroke and other disorders.

Although Malinski manages an active laboratory at OU devoted to the use of these nanosensors in medical research, he’s never given up his passion for the arts. He occasionally serves as an advisor to museums and art galleries looking for assistance with the identification and restoration of paintings.

The science behind this process will be the subject of a special Science Café event that will be held at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14 in the Baker Center Theater. Participants can get a free coffee, tea or hot chocolate to enjoy during the talk if they arrive at the Front Room at 4:45 p.m.

Malinski will discuss how scientific knowledge and technologies are used to analyze the age, type and origin of the materials in paintings. This process may help art experts authenticate pieces and attribute them to a particular artist. Analysis also may aid in repairing damaged or degraded work.

As original pieces from esteemed artists can bring prestige to a museum and fetch millions of dollars in the marketplace, there’s a lot at stake in properly identifying works, said Malinski, who specializes in 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish painters.

He’ll also address how science rescued artworks from poor restoration techniques used in the past.

Science Cafes are a venue for students interested in the sciences and engineering to informally share their interests during a conversational exchange with faculty, staff and the community in a friendly setting.