X-ray Analysis of Paint Layers and Support

  • Before-Sepulcre
    Before Sepulcre After
  • Before-sepulcre
    Before sepulcre After
  • Before-xray
    Before xray After


-rays are high energy rays that can traverse relatively thick objects.  This characteristic allows restorers to get information about the structure of the support of a painting, as well as the condition of the canvas or panel, such as the location, extent and nature of tears or losses, inlays and internal cracks or woodworm damage.  A high resolution X-ray photograph can aid a restorer in his quest for reconstructing the original shape or a missing element in the zone with a tear or paint loss.  When comparing an Infrared and X-ray imagery one can clearly see the later overpaintings and changes to the composition. The X-ray image is also useful for studying the technique of the artist – the pigments used, the type of imprimatura, the application of the ground layer and the choice of the support. Very often the X-ray image is the key to identifying the authenticity of a work of art.

X-ray analysis is also used for pigment identification. Portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) devices are especially useful for local on-the-spot element analysis.  An XRF device can identify a variety of elements (predominantly metals) in a painting which can help to identify pigments used in the paint layer.

X-ray plates are relatively small (43×35 cm), however, a composite image of a large painting can be created by assembling several X-radiographs using a computer software. Sofrino works with renowned institutes such as the Art Conservation and Research Institute in Maastricht, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, as well as, the International Platform for Art Research and Conservation to have X-ray analysis done.

Click here to see a practical example of how X-ray imagery can be used for reconstruction purposes.


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