X-ray examination of a painting

The radiography of paintings assists in the planning of restoration and conservation. The x-ray image provides crucial information about the current condition of the painting.

The example on this page is an oil painting on canvas (138 cm x 109 cm). According to a plaque on the frame it is made by the Italian painter Francesco Bassano da Ponte (1549 – 1592) .

Comparison of painting and radiograph

The passage of time has left distinct marks on the painting:
Due to the significant dirt on its surface and the yellowed varnish, many details can only be guessed.

The radiograph reveals the extraordinary level of detail that the artist invested in creating the painting. 

Canvas damage in the X-ray image

The painting has suffered from mishandled transportation, resulting in a large crack gaping in the canvas at the top left. 

Radiography of the painting provides information about the extent of the damage. Important aspects include the exact course of the crack, chipping in the painting layer, and the condition of the surrounding canvas.

In this painting, the crack is clearly visible. However, for restoration purposes, less apparent damages and details are also of great significance. Hidden tears in the canvas, fine pattern of dense cracking in the paint layer ("Craquelure" ) as well as earlier retouching can be examined using radiography.

Through this method, even surprising discoveries can often be made, such as changes in the composition of the painting. X-ray imaging helps conservatorsin making informed decisions about appropriate restoration measures and preserving the painting in its best possible condition.

What was lost becomes visible again

Dark colors, lack of details, low contrasts:
The painting is heavily aged.

The X-ray examination reveals the finely worked contours with which man and animal have been lavishly and lifelike designed. The bellows and the dynamics of the flying sparks, both of which can barely be guessed at in the painting, come into their own clearly in the X-ray image.

The x-rays on this page were taken with our Art X-Ray machines.

You would like to see more?

Here you will find X-rays of other artworks

Do you want more information?

Learn more about the Art X-Ray machines here: