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Hamilton Kerr Institute

Fitzwilliam Museum
 

An X-ray can produce extensive information about the construction of paintings on canvas and on wooden panels. Knowing whether the wooden boards are held together by wooden dowels or metal pins can dictate the course of treatment involved to minimise risks of damage and maximise results. Much can also be learnt about the condition of the piece itself. X-ray can also provide a tantalising window into the picture’s past by revealing the secrets hidden in the layers of paint. Often modifications and later alterations can be seen that are no longer visible to the naked eye. This is equally useful for both conservators and art historians. We use traditional X-ray film, developed and then mosaiced together on-site.

The X-ray above shows the shape of a silver platter and face of a woman, both details that were later painted out. The X-ray absorbent paint in these details, probably lead white, makes these shapes evident in X-ray examination.

Hamilton Kerr Institute Bulletin Number 6

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