State of the art: masterpieces under the X-ray

AFP
Experts at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague are using the latest technology to take a look at one of their most prized paintings, Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring,"
AFP

This really is state of the art research.

Experts at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague are using the latest technology to take a long, hard look at one of their most prized paintings, Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and they are inviting the public in to watch.

For two weeks, experts are pointing a battery of high-tech machines at the 17th-century masterpiece of a young woman whose enigmatic gaze has earned her the nickname of the Dutch Mona Lisa.

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Experts look on as a Macro XRF scanner is used to study Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

The iconic painting was last studied in 1994 during a conservation project. In those days, they took paint samples from the priceless work to examine. Since then, technology has made such advances that the museum says scanners and X-ray machines that don’t even touch the surface of the canvas can provide new insights into how Vermeer painted the girl and the materials he used.

The first machine on deck was an X-Ray Fluorescent Spectrometry scanner that uses a thin beam of X-rays to examine the distribution of pigments below the surface of the painting.

Museum Director Emilie Gordenker said that data collected in the coming two weeks will provide answers to many questions she has about “the girl.”

“How did Vermeer actually build up the surface of the painting? Where did he start? What’s underneath that paint layer?” she said. “What kind of paints did he use? Where did they come from?”


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