Behind the scenes scanning works of art

Preservation of cultural legacies like paintings, manuscripts, maps, and old photos through documenting and transforming in to digital formats for archives, research, and conservation or for display is increasingly important. Museum laboratories and university researchers are using a wider range of analytical instruments to study collections. There is need to study, materials like pigments, dyes, and binding media not only to observe possible degradation or changes due to age or environmental conditions, but also for to reveal the artist’s painting technique and methods used in creating the work of art.

Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) is gaining wide acceptance as a valuable optical tool for art archiving and restoration. HSI is an optical instrument used to measure the reflectance or transmittance of light by materials and the present the results in the form of spectral curves. HSI’s non-invasive and non-destructive imaging technique is safe for even the most fragile samples. Used remotely to scan all parts of the sample with high spatial resolution (down to 15-µm pixel size). HSI records both spatial and spectral information, for use in classifying chemical, physical and/or biological properties of the object.

In visible range, it gives improved precision in color measurement for recording pigment color-change, which is essential for conservation. In near infrared HSI can reveal information hidden behind the outer layer or written text that has deteriorated and faded under environmental conditions. Besides, fluorescence investigation are prone to highlight different solvent and binders.

Specim provides instrumentation for different spectral regions. Each spectral camera enables the user to emphasize different properties of the sample. Our art scanner can be equipped with VIS, VNIR, NIR or SWIR camera.

Success story: Composition by Henryk Stazewski, 1957, oil
For her doctoral thesis, Agata Warszewska-Kolodziej studied the oil painting “Composition” by the famous Avant-garde Polish painter Henryk Stazewski. An earlier X-ray scan showed that behind the visible painting a sketch or earlier painting existed. When measured using Specim’s spectral scanning instrument for SWIR region the painting revealed far more information on the underlying work. “We were able to exactly determine how the painted over composition looked like” says Agata.

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