Scott W. Nolley, owner of Fine Art Conservation of Virginia, likens art conservators to modern-day crime-scene investigators, given their increased use of advanced forensics to help them preserve works of art.
Nolley's latest investigation involved flying a detached marble hand from an 1850s statue of statesman Henry Clay to Paris in April. He was trying to determine whether it could be considered for a French-pioneered infrared-laser cleaning technique. He also recently used ultrasound to determine if the Virginia Capitol's statue of George Washington could withstand the building's renovation. (It can.)
Ultraviolet fluorescence microscopy helped Nolley reveal a sandwich of paint layers covering a portrait of Thomas Jefferson's cousin, Ryland Randolph. "He was a ne'er-do-well," says Nolley. "It's theorized that when he died, his family had his portrait painted over, possibly with the image of an entirely different person." Nolley examined a pinhead-sized cross section of the portrait to find that it had been painted over five times, the last time with a thinner, ruddier Randolph. He then X-rayed the painting "like a broken bone" to determine if it could successfully be restored to the original. (It could.)
Nolley's résumé includes positions with the Smithsonian Institution and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, but he's just as committed to restoring the art of private collectors.
For more information, call 226-1970 or visit www.facva.com.