Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New easel reveals secrets of old masters

Date:
June 25, 2014
Source:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Summary:
A state-of-the-art easel is literally shedding new light on the ingenious variety of materials that have been used over the centuries to create artists’ paint pigments.

The new state-of-the-art easel is literally shedding new light on the science behind pigments used in great paintings.
Credit: The National Gallery, London

A state-of-the-art easel is literally shedding new light on the ingenious variety of materials that have been used over the centuries to create artists' paint pigments.

The micro-positioning easel is giving scientists at The National Gallery, London, the ability to examine great works of art in unprecedented detail and is being used to analyse the paintings in a major new exhibition, Making Colour.

Funded through the support of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the computer controlled easel is capable of safely holding a very large painting and moving it in minute steps to make the most of the latest digital technology. Identifying the materials used as pigments provides information on aspects such as the age of a picture and the painting technique used.

Scientists and other researchers at the National Gallery use digital imaging to build up a high resolution image of paintings to learn about their structure, the way they are made and what needs to be done for their preservation. The easel will open up opportunities to try out new types of research such as hypersepectral imaging.

Infrared imaging, X-ray imaging, electron microscopy and mass spectrometry are all used to discover more about the materials used by artists in the past and how they are likely to change over time.

Ashok Roy, the Director of Collections at the National Gallery, explains: "We expect that we will be able to acquire very high resolution images in various parts of the spectrum that would be unobtainable without this technology, so it is a real advance in our imaging capabilities."

From ultramarine to regal gold and zinging silver, the National Gallery's new 'Making Colour' exhibition traces the history of how materials, natural and artificial, such as minerals and dyes were used to create colour in paintings from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century. Through a series of colour themed rooms visitors can experience how artists used colour and materials in their art.

Listen to an audio slide show with the conservation team at the National Gallery on the EPSRC YouTube channel. The title of the audio slideshow is The Science of Making Colour.

Sassoferrato's Virgin in Prayer, one of the paintings in the exhibition, is painted in a rich deep royal blue. Joseph Padfield, conservation scientist at the National Gallery explains: "Look at it from a distance and you might only see a single, strong blue, but if you're able to look at it much more closely you will see more subtlety to it. You will see the different brushstrokes that form the shadows and the highlights on the cloak and the details of how the fabric has been portrayed."

In the past the only way to really see this amount of detail is to take the painting down and look at it under a microscope, an option which is reserved for a very few people. Joseph explains how the easel could be used. "If you're able to use equipment, like our new easel, to capture extremely high resolution images of a painting, then that special experience of beginning to explore how such a fabulous painting was created can be accessible to many more people."

Sassoferrato's Virgin in Prayer, one of the paintings in the exhibition, is painted in a rich deep royal blue. Joseph Padfield, conservation scientist at the National Gallery explains: "Look at it from a distance and you might only see a single, strong blue, but if you're able to look at it much more closely you will see more subtlety to it. You will see the different brushstrokes that form the shadows and the highlights on the cloak and the details of how the fabric has been portrayed."

In the past the only way to really see this amount of detail is to take the painting down and look at it under a microscope, an option which is reserved for a very few people. Joseph explains how the easel could be used. "If you're able to use equipment, like our new easel, to capture extremely high resolution images of a painting, then that special experience of beginning to explore how such a fabulous painting was created can be accessible to many more people."

The easel is also helping inspire a part of the 'Making Colour' exhibition. Visitors can get involved in an interactive experiment that will feed into future research on human colour perception. It involves capturing the responses of people as they view a picture under different conditions, using a tunable LED light source.

Phillip Nelson, EPSRC's Chief Executive said: "Many people see the Arts and Science as existing in isolation. This is far from the truth, scientific and engineering techniques can help us understand how great works were made, how they are perceived by the human brain and how they can be preserved for future generations to appreciate. EPSRC is proud to be working in partnership with the National Gallery both in the Making Colour Exhibition and on other projects."

The Making Colour Exhibition is on at the National Gallery until the 7th September 2014.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). "New easel reveals secrets of old masters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625101451.htm>.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). (2014, June 25). New easel reveals secrets of old masters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625101451.htm
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). "New easel reveals secrets of old masters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625101451.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) — Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A look inside Monrovia's Island Hospital, a key treatment centre in the fight against Ebola in Liberia's capital city. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WH: We Can Stop Spread of Ebola in Its Tracks

WH: We Can Stop Spread of Ebola in Its Tracks

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reaffirmed the administration's confidence in the CDC's ability to keep the Ebola virus from spreading. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins