In situ macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF) scanning as a non-invasive tool to probe for subsurface modifications in paintings by PP Rubens
Within the last decade, the established synchrotron- and laboratory-based micro-XRF scanning technology inspired the development of mobile instruments that allow performing in situ experiments on paintings on a macro scale. Since the development of the first mobile scanner at the start of this decade, this chemical imaging technique has brought new insights with respect to several iconic paintings, especially in cases when standard imaging techniques such as X-Ray Radiography (XRR) or Infrared Refiectography (IRR) yielded ambiguous results. The ability of scanning MA-XRF to visualise the distribution of elements detected at and below the paint surface renders this spectrometric method particularly helpful for studying painting techniques and revealing materials that remain hidden below the paint surface. The latter aspect is especially relevant for the technical study of works by Pieter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) as this highly productive seventeenth century master is particularly renowned for the continuous application of modifications during (and even after) the entire course of the creative process. In this work, the added value of MA-XRF scanning experiments for visualising these subsurface features is exemplified by interpreting the chemical images obtained on three of Rubens' key works. Special attention is given to three types of adjustments that are particularly relevant for the technical study of Rubens' oeuvre: (1) compositional changes ('pentimenti'), exemplified by results obtained on The Portrait of Helene Fourment (ca. 1638), (2) extensions to the support ('Anstlickungen.), illustrated by imaging experiments performed on the Venus Frigida (1614) and (3) Rubens' intriguing halos around flesh tones, as found amongst others in The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1613). The ensuing insights in the paint stratigraphy and the underlying supporting structure illustrate the potential of MA-XRF scanning for the non-invasive, comparative study of Rubens' oeuvre. The results do not only augment the understanding of the complex genesis of Rubens' works of art and his efficient painting technique, but prove valuable during conservation treatments as well, as addressed in this paper. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Source (journal)
Microchemical journal. - New York
New York : 2018
138 (2018) , p. 238-245
Full text (Publisher's DOI)
Full text (open access)
Full text (publisher's version - intranet only)
Research group
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Web of Science
Creation 12.06.2018
Last edited 15.11.2022
To cite this reference