Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry

Karen Trentelman

Dr. Karen Trentelman

Getty Conservation Institute

Background Karen Trentelman is a senior scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) where she leads the Technical Studies research group. Current areas of research include: the application of non-invasive spectroscopic and imaging technologies to the study of paintings and illuminated manuscripts, reverse engineering ancient and historic artistic technologies, and the elucidation of pigment degradation pathways. She is also active in the education and training of scientists and conservators in the application of X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to the study of works of art, having organized bi-annual workshops since 2002, and has recently completed a textbook to accompany the course.  She received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Cornell University and carried out postdoctoral research at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, Chicago.  Before joining the GCI in 2004 she was a research scientist at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry was created and endowed by a generous gift from Dr. Arnold C. Ott and Marion Ott. Dr. Ott received his Ph.D. in 1943 from Michigan State University in Chemistry/Physics/Bacteriology and is a leading chemist and entrepreneur in West Michigan. He is one of the co-founders of Grand Valley State University and served on the GVSU Board of Trustees for 28 years.

Public Lecture

Thursday, Oct. 10th       Reception: 5:00 pm    Evening Lecture: 6:00 pm

Location: Charles W. Loosemore Auditorium, Richard M. DeVos Center, Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Parking:  For free parking during Thursday evening's public lecture, you can obtain a visitor's parking pass by contacting Dave Leonard

Title: Beyond Beauty: Using Scientific Analysis to Uncover Hidden Beauty in Works of Art

Abstract:  Composed of a diverse range of materials – from mineral pigments, to animal parchment to vegetable dyes – works of art are complex, heterogeneous constructions.   And since they are created by humans (and more importantly, by artists), almost no two are the same.  My job is to discover how works of art were created, how they may have changed over time and how we can try to preserve them for future generations. Because of the physical and material complexity of most works of art, their scientific study necessitates the use of a multi-analytical approach.  But data alone is not enough.  To contextualize the scientific results in terms of the historic cultures in which they were created necessitates a multi-disciplinary approach, and so almost all my work is done in close collaboration with conservators and curators. 

Using examples from the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum – which ranges from ancient Egyptian mummies to medieval manuscripts to paintings by masters such as Rembrandt, to 19th century drawings - I will show how scientific analysis helps increase our understanding of works of art, and the artists that created them. 


Chemistry Seminar

Friday, Oct. 11th      Time: 1:00 pm

Location: Pere Marquette Room, Russel H. Kirkhof Center, Allendale Campus

Parking:  For free parking during Friday's Chemistry seminar, you can obtain a visitor's parking pass by contacting Dave Leonard

Title:  Art as Evidence: The Scientific Examination of Works of Art

Abstract:  What does a scientist do in a museum? The scientific study of works of art addresses questions related to conservation (material identification, degradation processes, compatibility of treatment methods), curatorial (artist's technique, workshop practice, attribution/provenance), or material (physical properties and behavior) issues.  Answering these questions frequently requires detailed analyses of cultural heritage materials and the reconstruction of historic technologies.  The precious nature of works of art creates unique analytical challenges, often necessitating the development of new analytical approaches or specialized instrumentation.  A premium is placed on those techniques that either can be used completely non-invasively (i.e., without the removal of any sample, such as X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscopies), or can provide new and vital information with the removal of only minimal amounts of material (such as trace analysis via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) or chemical state information via X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES)).  Underlying all the work is the common goal of furthering the understanding of the materials and methods used in the creation, interpretation and conservation of works of art. 

This talk will present examples of research focused on objects in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, ranging from Egyptian mummies, to medieval manuscripts, to Italian gilded panel paintings, to 19th century French drawings, to paintings by Rembrandt.

Previous Ott Lecturers

Vernon Ehlers, Ph.D.
U.S. Congress

Michael D. Parker, M.B.A.
Dow Chemical Company

Carl Djerassi, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Robin D. Rogers, Ph.D.
University of Alabama

Virginia W. Cornish, Ph.D.
Columbia University

Richard N. Zare, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Thomas H. Lane, Ph.D.
Dow Corning Corporation

Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D.
Northwestern University

Gregory A. Petsko, Ph.D.
Brandeis University

Harry B. Gray, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology

Gary M. Hieftje, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Roderick MacKinnon, M.D.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
The Rockefeller University

Kevan Shokat, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Ada Yonath, Ph.D.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Weizmann Institute of Science

W. Carl Lineberger, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Boulder

Richmond Sarpong, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Jeffrey Moore, Ph.D.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Wilson Ho, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine

Geraldine Richmond, Ph.D.
University of Oregon

Sara E. Skrabalak, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Thomas J. Meyer, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Brian K. Shoichet, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Daniel M. Neumark, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Stephen L. Buchwald, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Melanie Sanford, Ph.D.
University of Michigan