From Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands:
‘Hidden’ Van Gogh painting revealed
30 July 2008 by M&C
A new technique allows pictures which were later painted over to be revealed once more. An international research team, including members from Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) and the University of Antwerp (Belgium), has successfully applied this technique for the first time to the painting entitled Patch of Grass by Vincent van Gogh. Behind this painting is a portrait of a woman.
Van Gogh did this as lack of money hindered him in buying new painter’s linen.
A new technique, based on synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, reveals this type of hidden painting. …
This method was applied to a painting by Vincent van Gogh. The work in question, Patch of Grass, was painted by Van Gogh in Paris in 1887 and is owned by the Kröller-Müller Museum. Previous research had already discovered the vague outline of a head behind the painting. It was scanned at the synchrotron radiation source DORIS at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg using an intense but very small X-ray bundle. Over the course of two days, the area covering the image of a woman’s head was scanned, measuring 17.5 x 17.5 cm.
The measurements enabled researchers to reconstruct the concealed painting in unparalleled detail. In particular the combination of the distribution of the elements mercury and antimony (from specific paint pigments) provided a ‘colour photo’ of the portrait which had been painted over.
The reconstruction enables art historians to understand the evolution of Van Gogh’s work better. The applied technique is expected to pave the way for research into many other concealed paintings.
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