Where Art Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture from the Hindu-Buddhist World

Before ancient objects enter a museum collection, they often travel vast distances and endure various periods of use, disuse, loss, and rediscovery. Their original meaning and function can become lost or obscured. For this reason, museums conduct extensive research on all objects entering their collections. Curators and conservators faithfully survey objects for any hints about their origins and provenance to ensure their overall general health, factual documentation and preservation. Where Art Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture from the Hindu-Buddhist World, a focused exhibition of primarily Cambodian sculpture from the Norton Simon foundations’ permanent collections, examines the connoisseurship and conservation involved in identifying and preserving these ancient objects.

A collaboration between the museum’s assistant curator of Asian art, Melody N. Rod-ari, and its conservator, John Griswold, this small installation explores how the place of origin and date of an object can be determined by the rendering of drapery pleats, hairstyles and ornaments of iconic statuary from South and Southeast Asia dating from the 3rd through 13th centuries. Furthermore, analytical methods to help identify traces of pigments, binders, and applied organic materials will be introduced, as will a discussion about distinguishing ancient tool marks from later ones.