The sculptures in Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha are more than fifteen hundred years old. Freer|Sackler researchers used multiple analytical techniques—involving both specialized equipment and the unaided eye—to determine how and with what the sculptures were made. Learn about these techniques in this image gallery.
The sculptures had been restored a number of times before they arrived at the Freer|Sackler. Much of our research was devoted to distinguishing which elements were original and which were later additions. Occasionally, we took minute samples of the objects to help identify their materials.
Scientific analysis alone cannot answer all of our questions. The results of a test must be carefully considered with other information before reaching conclusions. The most potent tools remain the human eye and an informed mind.
—Donna Strahan, head of conservation and scientific research, Freer|Sackler