X-Ray Du Jour
So, how many people does it take to position a 17th century painting on an x-ray machine? If it’s “Saint Mark the Evangelist,” the answer is five: two art handlers, two radiological technologists and a conservator.
The portrait, attributed to Dutch painter Jan Lievens and belonging to the Birmingham Museum of Art, marked the University’s third partnership with the Midwest Art Conservation Center. Last year, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit sent Scott Haglund, assistant professor of radiography, another painting and, in 2014, multiple Chinese artifacts from the Bronze Age.
“I jump at the opportunity to be involved,” he says, “because how often can you say ‘I’ve imaged some very old and expensive artwork?’ But, more importantly, because I want our students to experience an avenue where they can manipulate the technology beyond the medical field.”
Jess Webber M’16 assisted during the nearly four-hour session, which included imaging of the 1933 Henry Moore sculpture “Reclining Figure” from Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University. In this case, x-rays were crucial for its conservation.
“This 1933 Henry Moore sculpture has been restored so many times that we cannot move forward until we know what’s underneath,” says Megan Emery, MACC objects conservator. (One startling find: a modern, three-inch screw holding up its head.)
“[Helping to x-ray artwork] is a once in a lifetime experience for sure,” adds Webber, who chose radiography as a career because of her longtime interest in healthcare.
“Saint Mark the Evangelist” was certainly a sight to behold for Shannon Mays, a first-year radiography student who poked her head in the lab after class. “It’s pretty surreal to see art here,” she remarks. “We were learning to image feet on this machine just yesterday!”
Learn more about St. Kate's Radiography program.
View the full the painting at the Birmingham Museum of Art.