Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What would conservators find under your painting?

  • Scanning Mona Lisa In 3D: "Canada's National Research Council (NRC) will use the 3D scan to reveal features invisible to the naked eye, giving scientists and art historians a new perspective on the painting and helping to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding Leonardo da Vinci's 'sfumato' painting technique." The Guardian (UK) 09/27/06
  • Deducing not only fakes, but also the process: “In 1613, Rembrandt painted a self-portrait in oriental costume. One of his rather talented pupils made a copy of this painting. The difference between the two paintings was that one had a poodle and one didn't. When the paintings were viewed using X-rays, it became evident that Rembrandt had added in the poodle later. That made artists deduce that the painting without the poodle was the copy. "The Syndics", another painting by Rembrandt also yields up its secrets to X-rays. At first sight: it shows men in black hats and capes around a table. Rembrandt had a tendency to paint over his mistakes or changes, so that his paintings had many layers. The men in the painting are: Jacob van Loon, Folcket Jansz, Willem van Doyenburg, Frans Bel (a servant), Arnout van der Meye and Jochem de Nev. Jansz was first painted standing up, but he didn't like it. So Rembrandt changed the painting, making him look as though he was about to sit down. You can see both the standing and sitting versions of Jansz in an X-ray, the mistake fainter, of course. The governor, who is in the middle, was someone that Rembrandt evidently gave a lot of thought to. He changed the position of his head and hands thrice.” The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper) 04/15/05

A few years ago a low-budget B-movie called “Incognito” followed the path of an art forger in his quest to create and market a “lost” Rembrandt. Although it didn’t have the best production quality in regards to location shoots; it was entertaining in the manner in which the “method” of forgery was “revealed” (hollywood-style, but still interesting). Worthwhile rental.

So what is under your paintings? With my canvas and wood pieces (for obvious reasons, not so much on paper) I typically mix my colors on the work itself, so they include a lot of major color shifts under their numerous coats. Just yesterday, I went back into an oil painting that I started a year ago and repainted the bottom half of the canvas with new tones. I have a number of acrylic paintings floating around the Midwest that I went back into after they were dry and touched-up the surface with oil paint in order to make it “pop” – for a time I even considered that a major marker of my style. Today, even a handful of scrolls would have multiple horizon lines or additional mountain ranges, if viewed via x-ray. – DN

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