The Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University has recently made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of art history through the use of cutting-edge technology. The museum's researchers have found remnants of pigment on two ancient Roman portrait busts of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, dating back almost two millennia.
This discovery, along with the preservation of color on other cultural artifacts such as Roman paintings, mummy portraits, and textiles, has provided art historians with a deeper understanding of the original polychromy of these portrait busts.
To further study these artifacts, the researchers employed a technique called photogrammetry, which utilizes high-performance computing and three-dimensional editing software to extract detailed information and data from images. Through a multi-step workflow, hundreds of photographs were captured of each sculpture at varying angles and distances, and then processed through Carbonate's supercomputing research desktop (RED).
The workflow included photogrammetric analysis of images to create highly detailed, textured and accurate three-dimensional models, digital reconstruction of any broken or lost remnants from the busts such as hair, facial features, fabric, etc., and digitally painting and rendering examples of how the busts were potentially presented.
This final step has a variety of applications and methods that are all non-destructive, allowing for colors, shadows, lighting, textures, materials, angles, etc. to be changed or adjusted without affecting the actual physical portrait busts.
Having digital three-dimensional representations of these portraits and non-destructive methods of editing creates a nearly identical representation that can be further analyzed and experimented on in ways that would be nearly impossible to conduct in the physical world. This helps researchers and art historians to take one step closer to uncovering the truth of these cultural objects. This groundbreaking research exemplifies how technology can be used to enhance and deepen our understanding of the past, providing insight into the cultural, historical and artistic context of these ancient artifacts.