Universiteit Leiden

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The Vatican Coffin Project: past – present – future

Tuesday 24 May 2016
National Museum of Antiquities
Rapenburg 28
2311 EW Leiden

The Vatican Coffin Project (VCP) is a study initiated in 2008 by the Egyptian Dept. of the Vatican
Museums and the Diagnostic Laboratory of the Vatican Museums to study polychrome coffins of
the Third Intermediate Period in its first phase.

In their lectures Dr. Amenta and prof. Santamaria report on a multidisciplinary approach for analytic study and reconstruction of ancient polychrome Egyptian coffins which can be compared to other works of art (Roman art, Medieval art). For this purpose, we used different analytical techniques and compared the results and found it to be a valuable tool for the identification, documentation and reconstruction of the use of colour in antiquity.

This approach has proved to be an excellent link between archaeological knowledge and scientific analyses. It effectively facilitates exchange of information and collaboration between experts in various disciplines. In this study we have compared different ‘yellow coffins’ with the famous Roman sculpture ‘Augusto di Prima Porta’, the medieval panel ‘Last Judgement’, etc. In all these case studies we have identified both the pigments and the techniques of application used, and have explored potential technologies in the reconstruction of ancient colour and painting techniques throughout history.

The Protocol of analyses of this project has been carried out by the Diagnostic Laboratory of the Vatican Museums. The first goal is the study of the construction and painting techniques of coffins of this period, and the second one is the identification of any ‘atelier’. The conclusions are supported by studies of coffin iconography and texts.
The aim is to speak a single language, creating a ‘vocabulary’ (for conservation, diagnostic, construction and painting techniques) to be shared by all those involved in coffin studies. Many of the results obtained have been directly due to this team work, which involves Egyptologists, conservators and scientists.

Het Vatican Coffin Project: past – present – future

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