Monday, January 12, 2009

Illuminated manuscripts and DNA

The next time you go to Philadelphia, do yourself a favor and visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. My wife and I went there a couple of years ago, and I was kicking and screaming as she was dragging me away. The place is just awe-inspiring, no two ways about it. It's one of the few times that I truly felt insignificant. We're going back in May to visit the Cezanne exhibit. I can't wait.

If anything positive ever came out of the Dark Ages, it would be the beauty that can be found in the statues, woodcuts, and paintings of the Great Masters. The very first exhibit I saw at the museum was the armory. To you and I, the butt stock of a rifle is just a piece of wood. But to a skilled craftsman 500 years ago, a butt stock is like a blank canvas. The level of detail in the swords, hammers, shields, and firearms in the armory are simply mind-boggling. After spending a few hours fawning over the arms, paintings, and sculptures, I finally took my first look at an illuminated manuscript, and my jaw simply hit the floor.

A researcher from the University of North Carolina has found a way to gather DNA evidence from these manuscripts. The data gathered will help scientists and artists alike determine where and when these manuscripts originated, as well as the type of animal skin these manuscripts were written on.

Who says art and science don't mix?

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