Dual mode standoff imaging spectroscopy documents the painting process of the Lamb of God in the Ghent Altarpiece by J. and H. Van Eyck

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Science Advances  29 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 31, eabb3379
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb3379


The ongoing conservation treatment program of the Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, one of the iconic paintings of the west, has revealed that the designs of the paintings were changed several times, first by the original artists, and then during later restorations. The central motif, The Lamb of God, representing Christ, plays an essential iconographic role, and its depiction is important. Because of the prevalence of lead white, it was not possible to visualize the Van Eycks’ original underdrawing of the Lamb, their design changes, and the overpaint by later restorers with a single spectral imaging modality. However, by using elemental (x-ray fluorescence) and molecular (infrared reflectance) imaging spectroscopies, followed by analysis of the resulting data cubes, the necessary chemical contrast could be achieved. In this way, the two complementary modalities provided a more complete picture of the development and changes made to the Lamb.

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