"A thing of beauty" , as John Keats once wrote, may be "a joy forever", but works of art, whether they are sculptures, paintings, buildings, or books, do not last forever. Over time, delicate pigments fade, restoration or conservation attempts may go wrong, or objects of art may be attacked, such as the attack by Laszlo Toth on Michelangelo’s Pieta or the more recent destruction of theBuddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

While it may not be able to prevent vandalism, the Nanoforart project has taken on the task of appling nanotechnology to preserving and conserving works of art:

The main objective of the NANOFORART proposal is the development and experimentation of new nano-materials and responsive systems for the conservation and preservation of movable and immovable artworks.

While the progress in material science has generated sophisticated nanostructured materials, conservation of cultural heritage is still mainly based on traditional methods and conventional materials that often lack the necessary  compatibility with the original artworks and a durable performance in responding to the changes of natural environment and man-made activities.

The main challenge of NANOFORART is the combination of sophisticated functional materials arising from the recent developments in nano-science/technology with innovative techniques in the restoration and preventive conservation of works of art, with unprecedented efficiency.

An earlier posting on this site discussed the use of nanomaterials to preserve and conserve artifacts found at archealogical excavation sites, the use of such nanomaterials to preserve works of art is a new development in this area.

Many of the greatest works of art have lasted for hundreds of years and have become part of the cultural heritage of all humanity.  For example, Van Gogh’s many paintings of Sunflowers, one of which is at the top of this posting, are as well known and admired in Asia or South America as they are in Europe. Let us hope that the use of nanomaterials can lead to the Mona Lisa. smiling her enigmatic smile for another 500 years.