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Washington and Lee University

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The NETHERLANDS

Science in Art: The Technical Examination of 17th Century Dutch Painting

ARTH 356
4 credits
4 weeks in the Netherlands
Pre-requisite: CHEM 156 (3 credits, winter term 2010, GE5c) Permission of the instructor required.
Professor Erich Uffelman.


This seven-credit, two-course sequence will develop students' fundamental understanding of several aspects of 17th-century Dutch art history as well as certain physical, chemical, biological, and geological concepts and utilize that vocabulary and knowledge to discuss 17th-century Dutch art. The emphasis in CHEM 156 (winter term) will be on key aspects of optics, light, and chemical bonding needed to understand how a painting "works" and how art conservators analyze paintings in terms of conservation and authenticity using techniques such as X-ray radiography, X-ray powder diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, Raman microscopy, infrared spectroscopy, infrared microscopy, infrared reflectography, gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, UV-vis spectroscopy, UV photography, and laser ablation methods. When possible, the course will develop modern notions of science with those of the 17th century in order to see how 17th century science influenced 17th century art. The choice of 17th century Holland is logical from a scientific/conservation standpoint, but also poses interesting artistic questions from the standpoint of politics, religion, and economics.

ARTH 356 involves a survey of 17th century Dutch history, art history, etc., which links the scientific analysis to the art and culture of the time. The first twelve weeks (CHEM 156) involving primarily the scientific and technical background will be taught at W&L during the winter term. The second four weeks (ARTH 356) involving art and culture will be taught at the Center for European Studies (CES) Universiteit Maastricht. There will be trips to the following locations: The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), the Amsterdams Historisch Museum (Amsterdam), the AMOLF-FOM Institute (key scientific laboratory for the MOLART and de Mayerne Projects, Amsterdam), The Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem), the Grote Kerk St. Bavo (Haarlem), the Mauritshuis and Mauritshuis conservation lab (The Hague), Stedelijk Museum Het Prinzenhof (Delft), the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (Delft), Boijmans van Beuningen Museum (Rotterdam), Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Antwerp), Rubenshuis (Antwerp), Antwerp Cathedral of Our Lady, Bonnefanten Museum (Maastricht), Basilica of St. Servatius (Maastricht), and the Basilica of Our Lady (Maastricht), Sint Janskerk (Maastricht).

In The Netherlands, students will hear guest lectures from faculty at Universiteit Maastricht and have the opportunity to see the conservation laboratories at some of the major Dutch art museums. The working language at CES Maastricht is English. The Dutch are typically fluent in several languages, including English,  so students will not have to learn a foreign language to participate in the program. However, students will be expected to learn key phrases in Dutch as a matter of courtesy to citizens of the host country.

PROGRAM FEE: (Paid to W&L) $3,800 includes room, some meals, ground transportation, guest lectures, all field trips, and mandatory supplementary health and medical emergency evacuation insurance.

Additional costs: International airfare (est. $900); meals not included in board (est. $450) and personal spending money.

For further information, contact Professor Uffelman.