If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Behind this Painting is a Portrait of a Woman









'Hidden' Van Gogh painting revealed


The analysis of the painting 'Patch of Grass' by Vincent Van Gogh by means of an advanced form of non-destructive X-ray analysis allowed to reveal in unprecedented detail the original portrait, also by Van Gogh, over which the landscape was painted. This development will greatly facilitate the study of other 'over painted' works of art in the future.


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.

It is well-known that Vincent van Gogh often painted over his older works. Experts estimate that about one third of his early paintings conceal other compositions under them. A new technique, based on synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, reveals this type of hidden painting. The techniques usually used to reveal concealed layers of paintings, such as conventional X-ray radiography, have their limitations.

Together with experts from the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg and the Kröller-Müller Museum, TU Delft materials expert and art historian Dr Joris Dik, and University of Antwerp chemistry professor Koen Janssens therefore chose to adopt a different approach. The painting is subjected to an X-ray bundle from a synchrotron radiation source, and the fluorescence of the layers of paint is measured.

This technique has the major advantage that the measured fluorescence is specific to each chemical element. Each type of atom (e.g. lead or mercury) and also individual paint pigments can therefore be charted individually. The benefit of using synchrotron radiation is that the upper layers of paint distort the measurements to a lesser degree. Moreover, the speed of measurement is high, which allows relatively large areas to be visualized.





Patch of grass
 

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. 

  
Source: Delft University of Technology



Painted-over Portrait Probed




DELFT, The Netherlands, and ANTWERP, Belgium, July 31, 2008 -- An international research team has used synchrotron x-rays from a particle accelerator to reveal the portrait of a woman hidden beneath Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Patch of Grass" for 121 years.

It's well known that Van Gogh often recycled his canvases, painting over older works. Experts estimate that about one-third of his early paintings conceal other compositions. In the case of "Patch of Grass," conventional x-ray radiography previously revealed a vague outline of a head, while the new technique based on synchrotron radiation-induced x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy revealed much greater detail. 



Synchrotron radiation-induced x-ray fluorescence (SR-XRF) spectroscopy has revealed a detailed portrait of a women hidden beneath Vincent Van Gogh's "Patch of Grass" painting. Previous attempts with conventional x-ray radiography revealed only the vague outline of a head. (Image: University of Antwerp)

The new technique was implemented by Delft University of Technology materials expert and art historian Dr. Joris Dik and University of Antwerp chemistry professor Koen Janssens, working with experts from the Deutches Elecktronen Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany, and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands, which owns the painting.

Figure 1. (a) Vincent van Gogh, Patch of Grass, Paris, Apr−June 1887, oil on canvas, 30 cm × 40 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands (KM 105.264; F583/JH1263). The red frame indicates the field of view in images b and c (rotated 90° counter-clockwise). (b) X-ray radiation transmission radiograph (XRR), paint sample location indicated in the blue frame (Figure 4). (c) Infrared reflectograph (IRR).

Over the course of two days, the painting was subjected to an intense but very small x-ray bundle of synchrotron radiation from DORIS III, a storage ring for charged particles, and the fluorescence of the layers of paint measured. A major advantage of the new technique over previous methods is that the measured fluorescence is specific to each chemical element, so each type of atom, such as lead or mercury, and individual paint pigments can be charted separately.   



University of Antwerp analytical chemist Koen Janssens adjusts the alignment of the Van Gogh painting Patch of Grass in the x-ray fluorescence spectrometer at beamline L of the DORIS III synchrotron facility in Hamburg, Germany. (Image ©DESY Hamburg)


The benefit of using synchrotron radiation is that the upper layers of paint distort the measurements to a lesser degree. Moreover, the speed of measurement is high, which allows relatively large areas to be visualized, the researchers said.




Figure 7. (a) Tritonal color reconstruction of Sb (yellowish white) and Hg (red) representing the flesh color of the hidden face. (b) Detail from Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Woman, Nuenen, winter 1884−85, oil on canvas, 42 cm × 33 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (KM 105.591; F154/JH608). (c) Detail from Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Woman, Nuenen, winter 1884−85, oil on canvas, 42 cm × 34 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (F156/JH569).
 
The measurements enabled researchers to reconstruct the concealed painting in unparalleled detail, enabling art historians to better understand the evolution of Van Gogh's work. The combination of the distribution of the elements mercury and antimony (from specific paint pigments) provided a "color photo" of the portrait which had been painted over. Additional investigations performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, revealed the presence of the pigments Naples' yellow (lead antimonate, yellow-brown) and vermillion (mercury sulphide, red), used by Van Gogh to paint the portrait.

The new technique is expected to pave the way for research into many other concealed paintings, including more by Van Gogh.





A film explaining the research
 




video

A film of the work in progress

video









A documentary about the dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Keywords: Netherlands; documentary; paintings; Arles. Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 -- 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist. His paintings and drawings include some of the world's best known, most popular and most expensive pieces. Van Gogh spent his early adult life working for a firm of art dealers.

After a brief spell as a teacher, he became a missionary worker in a very poor mining region. He did not embark upon a career as an artist until 1880. Initially, van Gogh worked only with somber colors, until he encountered Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism in Paris.

He incorporated their brighter colors and style of painting into a uniquely recognizable style, which was fully developed during the time he spent at Arles, France. He produced more than 2,000 works, including around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches, during the last ten years of his life. Most of his best-known works were produced in the final two years of his life, during which time he cut off part of his left ear following a breakdown in his friendship with Paul Gauguin.

After this he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide. The central figure in Van Gogh's life was his brother Theo, who continually and selflessly provided financial support. Their lifelong friendship is documented in numerous letters they exchanged from August 1872 onwards.

Van Gogh is a pioneer of what came to be known as Expressionism. He had an enormous influence on 20th century art, especially on the Fauves and German Expressionists. Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Netherlands.






One short film from the DVD Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.

A Segment of Akira Kurosawa's movies titled Dreams... in this scene the main character supposed to represent Akira Kurosawa himself enters the world of Vincent Van Gogh... literally, and gets the opportunity of a lifetime... to speak to the legendary artist himself...

Akira played by Akira Terao
Vincent Van Gogh played by Martin Scorsese








Sources: 
http://www.photonics.com
The original scientific article can be found at: http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/abstract.cgi/ancham/asap/abs/ac800965g.html
http://photon-science.desy.de/news__events/research_highlights/archive/visualizing_a_lost_painting_by_vincent_van_gogh/index_eng.html
http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/verborgen-van-gogh-schilderij-onthuld-1/




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