Research into the field of technical art history and art conservation requires an understanding of these two interrelated fields. The knowledge of materials, techniques, historical and social context in the creation of a work of art is as important as the scientific tools and analyses equipment used to determine what materials were used or how an artwork was constructed or created. That is why IPARC, with its multidisciplinary team specialized in the conservation of art works of various typology, together with its own analytical lab, is a center of expertise for technical art research.
The IPARC lab offers a wide range of non-destructive and destructive analyzing techniques for the study of works of art.
There are several non-invasive, non-destructive methods that can be used.
First, there are several imaging techniques available, of course visual photography whether or not in high definition of the object, extended with raking light photography, digital infrared photography and ultraviolet reflectance photography. These technical photography methods can all be performed in high to very high definition and provide a first insight in the condition, the materials used and the build-up of an object. These techniques can also be combined and mixed digitally to obtain false color images. These offer further insights in previous treatments and the distribution of pigments.
Another extension in imaging techniques is X-ray radiography. With our portable scanning system we can scan any object in the studio as well as in situ. X-ray radiography allows you to see the internal structures and build-up of an artwork.
On the other side of the spectral range we offer infrared reflectography, an infrared imaging technique up that allows for extremely detailed imaging of underdrawing and build-up of paint layers up to ca. 2200 nm.
All imaging techniques for paintings are imaged on a custom build scanner system, which operates so that the resolution of fine detail is constant, and not dependent on the size of the painting.
IPARC has recently expanded its services into the field of Macro XRF scanning and analysis which uses X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. This non-destructive method offers a two-dimensional image of the dispersion of chemical elements and is ideal for studying hidden layers of paint, changes that have been made during the creation or revealing earlier restorations. Macro-XRF thus provides a unique insight in the creative process of the artist.
Destructive analyses involve highly sophisticated scientific instruments that can analyze small samples taken from artworks. These samples can be examined and analyzed using different microscopic techniques such as: visual-, UV- and polarizing microscopy for the determination of pigments or a closer look at the stratigraphic build-up of an artwork. But also, with the scanning electron microscope (SEM-EDX) coupled to an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer, we can determine the elemental composition of samples. A Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy microscope (FTIR) on the other hand is used for molecular characterization.
- XRR (X-RAY Radiography) images the internal structures and build-up of a painting.
- UVF (Ultraviolet Fluorescence) identifies old and new layers of varnish and enables us to discriminate the original areas from the retouchings. Typically, around 365 nm
- VIS (Visible Photography front and back) provides the actual images of a painting and will be used as a neutral standard to which other multispectral images will be compared
- RAK (Raking Light) meticulously documents craquelures, loss of pictorial layers as well as providing insight in the painting techniques, s.a. brush marks and instruments used
- IR (Infrared Photography) gives an image of underdrawing and build-up of paint layers up to 1100 nm.
- IRFC (Infrared False Color) allows for an estimate of the relative amount of retouchings
- UV-IRF (Ultraviolet-induced Infrared Fluorescence) detects the presence of cadmium pigments and Egyptian blue in paintings
- IRT (Infrared transmitted) allows the detection underdrawing and pentimenti in translucent objects like canvas or paper.
- IRR (Infrared Reflectography) gives an extremely detailed image of underdrawing and build-up of paint layers up to 2200 nm. Intensive processing of the images is imperative however (mosaicking)
- Ma-XRF (Macro- X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy scanning) offers a 2D image of the elemental dispersion, making it ideal for studying pigments, hidden layers of paint, changes that have been made during the creation or revealing earlier restorations. It provides a unique insight in the creative process of the artist
- FT-IR (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) coupled to a microscope gives the molecular characterization of a sample on a macro- or microscopical level.
- SEM-EDX (scanning electron microscope) coupled to an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer, provides the elemental composition of samples on a microscopical level up to x200.000 magnification.
- VIS, UV, POL microscopy (visual, ultraviolet or polarizing microscopy) for the determination of pigments or to take a closer look at the stratigraphic build-up of an artwork.