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View Full Version : X-raying a Rembrandt painting.....


allydoodle
12-11-2011, 02:22 PM
Barb Noonon has a beautiful pastel posted in the Gallery, and she talks about how many different paintings or 'ghosts' of paintings are underneath the one she has now completed. She reminded me of a recent finding at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is located here on Long Island. What they do there is amazing really. My husband works there, so I'm always hearing about things that are usually over my head, but when I can wrap my brain around some of the concepts, I'm amazed.

This find was a bit more at my level, yet the science to get there is still waaaaaaay over my head. There was an interesting discovery with what was considered to be a "questionable Rembrandt". Brookhaven has equipment called NSLS X-ray, which was used to determine if a Rembrandt painting was actually a real Rembrandt painting. It was thought it might have been painted by someone else, maybe an apprentice. They used this X-ray machine and were not only able to determine it was an authentic Rembrandt, but underneath the painting was another painting, an unfinished self portrait of Rembrandt. Take a look at this link (http://www.bnl.gov/today/story.asp?ITEM_NO=2740), a very interesting read, though a bit long and technical. If you can get past the technicalities and jargon, it's really cool.

Happy reading.....

Aelfwynn
12-11-2011, 02:35 PM
Barb Noonon has a beautiful pastel posted in the Gallery, and she talks about how many different paintings or 'ghosts' of paintings are underneath the one she has now completed. She reminded me of a recent finding at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is located here on Long Island. What they do there is amazing really. My husband works there, so I'm always hearing about things that are usually over my head, but when I can wrap my brain around some of the concepts, I'm amazed.


OMG :eek: My grandfather used to work at Brookhaven, doing that kind of thing (or maybe he did that kind of thing earlier when he was at CMU, I can't remember exactly when it was.... oh, yeah, it was at CMU, it was finding out that some supposed Vermeers were forgeries, but he went on to work at Brookhaven around the time I was born, and was still there when I was growing up, until he retired.)

allydoodle
12-11-2011, 03:41 PM
OMG :eek: My grandfather used to work at Brookhaven, doing that kind of thing (or maybe he did that kind of thing earlier when he was at CMU, I can't remember exactly when it was.... oh, yeah, it was at CMU, it was finding out that some supposed Vermeers were forgeries, but he went on to work at Brookhaven around the time I was born, and was still there when I was growing up, until he retired.)

It just goes to show you what a small world it is......

Isn't it neat Mercy? What they have there is really amazing stuff, and this just caught my interest because it was something I can actually relate to, unlike splitting atoms and such stuff which I think is amazing, just waaaaaaay over my head!

Donna T
12-11-2011, 03:43 PM
Interesting! Thanks for the link, Chris. I wonder how Rembrandt would feel about this?

Colorix
12-11-2011, 04:36 PM
Interesting! Thank you for the link. If it is genuine, then it looks like an early work, which would be consistent with what is beneath it.

I'd like to know more about this:

....art historians were able to draw enough similarities with other Rembrandt works and studio techniques to conclude that this painting was indeed by the master himself. According to Dik, someone who is copying a painting – such as a student in Rembrandt’s studio – would not change anything; they would simply replicate the work. Reworking an original painting into another work is an example of experimental techniques used by Rembrandt. The buried paint is proof of that, he said.

Occam's razor seems to give us a much simpler answer: a prepared board/canvas is too valuable to throw away if the painting didn't succeed, so one scrapes off ridges and paints over it. It is fully conceivable that a student gets a failed painting to paint something else on. In itself, painting over a painting doesn't prove R himself painted it. And, of course it doesn't prove he didn't.

I googled it, and there are several articles, and I really react to them, for their lack of understanding of the time-period. Nearly *all* great master paintings have had parts painted by apprentices, and that doesn't make them 'fakes'. Applying 21st century standards to the 1600s will give false answers!

I think Rembrandt would have a good laugh, he seems to be a deeply intelligent and fun fellow.

allydoodle
12-11-2011, 04:42 PM
Interesting! Thank you for the link. If it is genuine, then it looks like an early work, which would be consistent with what is beneath it.

I'd like to know more about this:



Occam's razor seems to give us a much simpler answer: a prepared board/canvas is too valuable to throw away if the painting didn't succeed, so one scrapes off ridges and paints over it. It is fully conceivable that a student gets a failed painting to paint something else on. In itself, painting over a painting doesn't prove R himself painted it. And, of course it doesn't prove he didn't.

I googled it, and there are several articles, and I really react to them, for their lack of understanding of the time-period. Nearly *all* great master paintings have had parts painted by apprentices, and that doesn't make them 'fakes'. Applying 21st century standards to the 1600s will give false answers!

I think Rembrandt would have a good laugh, he seems to be a deeply intelligent and fun fellow.

A good laugh indeed Charlie...... I find it amazing the technology that can be used to figure out the "truth", whatever that is. The lengths some will go to.... and yes, applying 21st century standards to the 1600's is a bit of a false meter... I'm not sure what all this proves, though I do find it facinating, and to be able to see what was underneath, just kewl.

How would Rembrandt feel? Who knows Donna, I wonder too. Maybe a bit unhappy, as he obviously did not intend for anyone to see his first creation on that canvas, it was purposefully covered...

sketchZ1ol
12-11-2011, 05:00 PM
hello
Chris , neat stuff !
kinda like the way a prism refracts ' white ' light into different colours ,
and black&white photography film + paper/emulsions .

Mercy , ' CMU ' would be in Penna . ?

Ed :}

mikedameron
12-11-2011, 05:44 PM
Wife and I just attended the Rembrandt exhibit in Raleigh NC. They went into the question of verification in detail, with examples of paintings considered valid and others at various levels of verification. They showed various devices used to study the paintings, including x-rays. Very interesting, but I have to wonder whether the experts know as much as they think they do. Something as subjective as a piece of art and 400 years in between; who really knows?

However, if you're close to Raleigh, the exhibit is interesting. I wish they had included some etchings and drawings in the offering...they didn't and they made up the bulk of his work.

Colorix
12-11-2011, 05:52 PM
It is fascinating, how what the artist hides is 'dug up' by advanced tech centuries later. Of course no-one would be interested in doing it if a genuine Rembrandt fetched a mere $ 50...

I adore Rembrandts paintings, etchings, etc. He was truly a Great Master. With tons of humour. Take a look at the Night Watch (which isn't, it was just so dirty it looked like night), it is really called something like "Captain Banning Coque's Regiment", and Rembrandt had issues with civic guards (is it called that? Volunteers), so he painted them as touching weapons for the first time, including the guy looking down the barrel... And, where does the shadow of the hand of the captain fall....? (Aherm.) He made such a joke of them in the painting the regiment refused it when they discovered it.

The 1600s were more, well, robust and earthy, especially their humour. There is this beautiful etching of his, I think it is called the .... (what's it in English?) The Good Samaritan, showing a rather Dutch street scene, with a donkey tied outside the inn, and some 'ambience' in the form of a sitting dog. Suddenly it dawned on me what dogs do when they sit exactly like that... (hint, little black plastic bag needed to pick up the result) and it was OK at that time to include in that kind of biblical scene.

As we have some Rembrants in Stockholm, our National Museum took part in the Rembrandt project, where they did all sorts of investigations and x-rays and stuff, and there was a series of lectures by the pros doing that job, and I saw them all. It revealed quite a bit of very interesting stuff, but nowadays the equipment is much more advanced, like in the thing you showed, Chris. I just failed to rein in my frustration over modern mass media... sorry for that.

robertsloan2
12-11-2011, 06:22 PM
Charlie, that's great. Those bits of earthy humor in paintings are awesome. It's too bad modern painters don't work in little humorous bits like that dog.

Chris, thanks for the link to a fascinating story. I always wondered about how they do that, finding images buried under other images by X-ray. I've got a short story in progress that hinges on that technique but didn't know what it was called or how they did it, so this was both interesting in terms of art history but a big help for my writing!

chuas2
12-11-2011, 08:43 PM
Cool stuff Chris, thanks! Well worth the read!
Kris

allydoodle
12-12-2011, 08:36 AM
I'm happy everybody is enjoying the link. I was facinated; it's amazing what lengths people will go to in order to try to uncover the truth. Who knows what the truth really is, but the discoveries found along the way are pretty neat I think (like paintings underneath paintings). It's not often enough that the art world makes the news, so when it does I find myself soaking it all up!

johndill01
12-12-2011, 05:35 PM
This brings to mind an incident with a Bouguereau painting that was discovered to have his signature painted over another signature and this painting had passed under the scrutiny of several experts, including a well know restorer and cleaner of antique paintings, before the signature was discovered with new X-ray technology. It is now held in reserve for only short time special showings with some of his other works and an explanation that this one is thought to be a forgery.

John

bnoonan
12-13-2011, 11:51 AM
I have to tell you that I frequently tell my buyers they have two paintings in one. I tell them that the person painted under the other portrait is still there... so if they go exploring it will be found.

So if I paint with Rembrandt pastels...can I tell them.....?

Thanks for the read. Barb

jackiesimmonds
12-14-2011, 02:03 PM
wow. How fascinating. Thanks SO MUCH.

allydoodle
12-15-2011, 06:44 PM
Neat story John, thanks!

Too funny Barb! I think most of us have some sort of mystery behind our finished paintings don't we?

You're welcome Jackie!