New Research on Night Watch Ground Layer

December 21 2023

Image of New Research on Night Watch Ground Layer


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those interested in the depths of technical analysis for works of art, the journal Science Advances has published an extended article on the ground layer of Rembrandt's Night Watch. The article entitled Correlated x-ray fluorescence and ptychographic nano-tomography on Rembrandt’s The Night Watch reveals unknown lead “layer” is free to read online.

Here's the abstract:

The Night Watch, one of the most famous masterpieces by Rembrandt, is the subject of a large research and conservation project. For the conservation treatment, it is of great importance to understand its current condition. Correlated nano-tomography using x-ray fluorescence and ptychography revealed a—so far unknown—lead-containing “layer”, which likely acts as a protective impregnation layer applied on the canvas before the quartz-clay ground was applied. This layer might explain the presence of lead soap protrusions in areas where no other lead components are present. In addition to the three-dimensional elemental mapping, ptychography visualizes and quantifies components not detectable by hard x-ray fluorescence such as the organic fraction and quartz. The first-time use of this combination of synchrotron-based techniques on a historic paint micro-sample shows it to be an important tool to better interpret the results of noninvasive imaging techniques operating on the macroscale.

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