Guest Speaker

Stephanie Stillo’s talk centered on the recovery of vital information from historical art artifacts. An example of crucial information to the archiving and restoration of documents and art works is the medium used. If the chemicals used in the work are known, we can better store and protect the piece from the natural decay of the colors that occurs with contact to air. To solve the problem of chemical composition within the piece, samples from the work are analyzed and evaluated to a certain chemical signature. This part seems to involve Chemistry and the mechanism of varying light wavelengths. Once the signature is obtained, it is compare to known signatures of chemicals that have been previously evaluated. Once the chemical is identified, we can then take the necessary measures to protect the artifact. Besides teaching her historical-laden field of study, Stephanie also assists in this recovery process through grants she has received that assist in her continuing research. Thus, she is able to profess the intricacies of the problems encountered with document identification and analysis as well as directly contribute to the cause.


Through the presentation, I found Stephanie’s mention of “The Book of Secrets” to be fascinating. I had previously known that artists would frequently go on a tour to gather knowledge and professionalize their career in the world of painting. From this trip, they would learn how to be an influential artist but also bring back many jewels and artwork from the places they visited. What I didn’t know is the integration of “The Book of Secrets” in this process. The book taught the rising artist how to truly be the artist they aspired to be as well as expose them to the spirituality and importance of their assumption of such an important role. A second topic I found appealing was the chemical analysis of artwork and documents that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Since I will be pursuing higher level Chemistry courses at W&L, I appreciate the influence that science has in this field of study. This leads to a question I did not ask: Exactly how is this signature analysis of the chemicals performed? This topic reminds me of the abroad Spring Term course called “Chemistry in Art” which I kept my eyes on during Fall Term as a tentative course for studying abroad. Unfortunately, things do not always work as planned. With Stephanie’s penetrating lecture on the topic as well as smooth transition from point to point, I would be interested in furthering my knowledge in the field of Art, especially after taking an Art History course at W&L this past Winter Term with Dr. King.