What lies beneath the layers of famous paintings? Apparently…more paintings. A novel technique has revealed never-before-seen details of hidden artworks within paintings around the world. The method images the faint reflections of low-power infrared light – the invisible light waves typically associated with heat. However, in contrast to existing infrared imaging, the technique deposits little heat in precious works.
The approach, called Thermal Quasi-Reflectography or TQR, is described in Optics Express. It joins a host of light-based techniques that restoration experts have at their disposal to analyse and care for artworks. At the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum, X-rays can be used to not only see through layers of pigments but also to identify the very atoms used in them – a crucial step in determining the age or authenticity of some works.
Many painters throughout history have reused canvases either to save money or to cover up a work which they were dissatisfied with. Today scientists are using technology to uncover these hidden materpieces and discover never known before details. Take a look:
Picasso’s “Old Guitarist” hides a past life of a former painting.
The Art Institute of Chicago x-rayed the painting to reveal the menagerie image underneath of a woman, child and animals.
Much has been written about the symbolism of the tiny unicorn in Raphael’s Potrait of a Young Woman. However, x-rays of the painting show that the unicorn was originally a dog. In fact, Raphael likely painted the woman without anything in her hands at all — the dog and unicorn were likely added by other artists.
A previously unknown painting by Francisco de Goya has been found hidden underneath one of his masterpieces, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has announced. The unfinished work was discovered underneath Goya’s Portrait Of Don Ramon Satue. It is thought to depict a French general, and may even portray Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph.The Spanish master may have covered up the portrait for political reasons. Joseph Bonaparte was briefly King Of Spain, from 1808-1813. When the Napoleonic army was driven out and Ferdinand VII restored to the throne, Goya, who retained the painting, would have wanted to distance himself from the French regime. The artist had served the French king and feared reprisals, despite receiving an official pardon and being reinstated as first court painter.
Studies at the ESRF and at Brookhaven National Laboratory have helped to reveal a hidden painting, thought to be a self-portrait by Rembrandt, below an unknown painting entitled Old Man with a Beard. X-rays reveal an unfinished self-portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn.