Geographic Signature To Detect Art Counterfeits

Geographic Signature To Detect Art Counterfeits

In art conservation, studying microbes may lead to new ways to slow down the deterioration of aging yet priceless artwork, while unmasking counterfeits. That’s what scientists have analysed in the paper for Frontiers in Microbiology, using masterpieces of the great Leonardo Da Vinci.

Crux of the Matter

What’s The Latest Research?
Back in March, JCVI geneticists were collecting swabs from centuries-old art in a private collection housed in Florence, Italy.
As per a recent paper in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, specific microbes were found on 7 of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings.

What Does This Mean?
The swabs confirmed the presence of “oxidase-positive” microbes on painted wood and canvas surfaces. These microbes eat compounds found in paint, glue, and cellulose, in turn producing hydrogen peroxide or water, as byproducts.

What Methods Did They Use?
Earlier, the team had used microbiome analysis, to study the storage conditions of 3 statues retrieved from smugglers, and found their possible geographical origins. For this latest paper, they used Nanopore, a sequencing method that uses protein nanopores embedded in a polymer membrane for sequencing. 

Then How Did They Analyze?

  • A delicate microaspiration i.e. filtering suction was used to collect debris like dust particles and microbial cells, from surface areas on the drawings. 
  • Then the DNA was extracted, amplified, and sequenced.
  • Finally using optical microscopy, they imaged features of interest in all 7 drawings.

What Else Was Found?
Each drawing had its own unique microbiome or an “independent molecular profile or biological pedigree.” Overall, the bacteria dominated fungi in the drawings’ microbiomes

Types Of Microbiomes Detected

  1. Bacteria found in human microbiomes: either they came while being handled during restoration or from the artist himself, as the bacteria in dust could “remain in suspension” for long periods.
  2. Insect microbiomes: by flies and their excreta depositions.

What Do Other Researchers Say?
The other Australian/Italian team researching was unable to conclude definitively whether any of the microbial contaminants date back to Leonardo’s time. 

  • Salvator Mundi is a painting by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci dated to C. 1500. It is one of fewer than 20 known works by Leonardo and was the only one to remain in a private collection. It was sold at auction for $450.3 million on 15 November 2017 by Christie’s in New York to Prince Badr bin Abdullah, setting a new record for the most expensive painting ever sold at public auction.
  • The Italian Renaissance, a period in Italian history that covered the 15th and 16th centuries, developed a culture that spread across Europe. The French word renaissance means “rebirth” and defines the period as one of cultural revival and renewed interest in classical antiquity after the centuries which Renaissance humanists labelled the “Dark Ages”.

Scientists Revived An Ancient Life Form Recently

Scientists Revived An Ancient Life Form Recently

Not dinosaurs unfortunately, however, Japanese scientists have got a headstart with resurrecting dormant microbes, lying at the south pacific seabed for more than a 100 million years. So how did they find these ancient life forms? Can this be a breakthrough towards resurrecting mammoths or even dinosaurs?

Crux of the Matter

Rise Of The Sleeping Microbes?
Scientists from Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology have revived microbes that were in a dormant state for 100 million+ years, giving us a glimpse at what life was like in the past.

The team led by geomicrobiologist Yuki Morono found that the microbes survived in the South Pacific seabed, a sediment poor in nutrients, but having enough oxygen to allow them to breathe. It was published by Nature Communications.

What Is A Microbe?
A micro-organism that is amongst the earth’s simplest organisms, that has the ability to live in extreme environments where other developed life forms cannot survive.

It exists as a unicellular or multicellular living organism or even as a cell cluster and are of six major types: bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoa, algae, and viruses.

How Did They Stumble Upon It?
As per study co-author Steven D’Hondt, “In the oldest sediment we’ve drilled, with the least amount of food, there were still these ancient life forms”, After incubation of these microbes by scientists, the microbes began to eat and multiply.

What Does This Imply?
The new finding depicts how some of Earth’s simplest living structures don’t have the concept of a lifespan. Using DNA and RNA gene profiling, bigger creatures may be resurrected in the future.

Can The Woolly Mammoth Be Revived?
The possibility is a tall order right now. Though futuristic technology can help explain why the elephant ancestor went extinct in the first place.

Last year scientists revived genes from a population of Siberian Island mammoths that survived until around 4,000 years ago.

  • Micrographia is a historically significant book by Robert Hooke about his observations through various lenses. It is particularly notable for being the first book to illustrate insects, plants etc. as seen through microscopes.
  • The word mammoth was first used in Europe during the early 17th century, when referring to maimanto tusks discovered in Siberia. They were called “mammon’s horn” and were often found in washed-out river banks. Some local people claimed to have seen a living mammoth.
  • The role of RNA in protein synthesis was suspected in 1939. Severo Ochoa won the 1959 Nobel Prize in Medicine after he discovered an enzyme that can synthesize RNA in the laboratory.