PSP student Sanchita Balachandran is using Reflectance Transformation Imaging to reveal the “first draft” drawings of ancient Greek vase painters. From Balachandran's blog post on her work as a Getty Conservation Guest Scholar:
The Getty Villa’s stunning new installation
of the wares made by the potters and painters of Athens thousands of
years ago showcases how expertly these gleaming red and black surfaces
were made. But while most visitors come to marvel at the completed
perfection that the Athenian craftspeople wanted their viewers to see, I
am usually looking for what these ancient makers didn’t intend for us to see—their imperfections, and most especially, their first drafts.
The complex and finely painted images on ancient Greek ceramics might
appear effortlessly made, but even the accomplished artisans of the Kerameikos (the Athenian potters’ quarter) didn’t just wing it. Behind, well actually, underneath
those confident brush strokes are barely visible lines, traces of the
preparatory drawings made by artisans as they sketched out the images
they planned to paint on the still damp and pliable clay of their
unfired pots. Made with a variety of pointed tools, these preparatory
drawings range from scant lines, to ovals delineating heads and hands,
to extensive sketches. And I’m starting to look for them everywhere.