By John Wall
Photography: Courtesy of Richard Hark
omy of a Sabbatical Taking Time Off for Scholarship is Vocation, Not Vacation
Chemist Richard Hark used a Raman microscope, above, to analyze pigments on rare illuminated manuscripts in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Inset: Hark also analyzed samples of lapis lazuli, which was used in making aquamarine paints.
he scientist at the microscope carefully adjusts a vellum page taken from an illuminated manuscript created by an anonymous artist in the 15th century. The image on the page is a Madonna and child, surrounded by putti, the chubby cherubs often used in religious art. The researcher adjusts the focal point of the instrument on the lush ultramarine blue of the Madonna’s cloak. He activates the lasers used to analyze the organic and inorganic compounds used to make paints and inks and identifies the substance used to color the cloak. It’s lapis lazuli, probably from Afghanistan.