How We Do It

How We Do It

There is a long history of scientific analysis of paintings using imaging techniques such as X-radiography, ultra-violet fluorescence, infrared reflectography and transmitted infrared. These are often used as complementary methods to chemical analysis of the painting. While imaging provides information on features such as underdrawing and alterations, analysis of the physical structure is able to provide data useful in dating a painting or in understanding an artist’s use of materials. The full imaging and analysis toolkit is now large and sophisticated, each technique with its own sphere of application, strengths and weaknesses which have been fine-tuned over decades of use. To use science as a tool for art research, the investigator must have a comprehensive understanding of how best to select amongst the full range of available analytical methods and to employ them most effectively, allied with a solid knowledge of technical art history.

Because of the limitations inherent in any one approach, Art Analysis & Research have developed a new unified imaging and analysis system, built with the goal of maximising both the range and quality of information obtainable. The suite of techniques we have chosen is capable of providing ultra-high resolution digital images at multiple wavelengths, including ultra-violet fluorescence, visible, infrared and X-rays. Paintings are imaged on a scanner system of extreme precision, which operates so that the resolution of fine detail is constant, not dependent on the size of the painting. This quality is highly important, such as when examining features of the artist’s technique, or painting condition.

We use our own images as part of our day-to-day research. Clients also use our images in a wide range of ways, such as:

  • In authenticity and attribution studies
  • As part of dossiers for works offered for sale
  • To help with conservation work and to assess/document condition
  • For security and identification purposes, such as to check condition after loan
  • For high-quality reproductions

Infrared detail of Brueghel’s The Village Lawyer‘s Office. Painting courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Examinations may be performed on site, or in our laboratories, using the following tools and techniques:

  • Technical imaging (X-rays, Infrared, Visible light, Ultraviolet, Hyperspectral and 3D)

  • Materials analysis (Paints & Inks, Wood, Paper & Canvas, Ceramics, and Metals & Alloys).

  • Materials dating (various forms of radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, etc.)

  • Specialist knowledge of technical art history

  • Data analysis (synthesis of information and contextualization, Pigmentum collection)



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