X-ray analysis on artwork shows artist repainted blonde woman brunette

April 4th, 2011 - 5:41 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 4 (ANI): An X-ray analysis of a 19th century painting by an unknown artist has revealed that the woman in the picture had initially been painted a vivacious blonde before being repainted a sedate brunette.

The artist had at first depicted a blonde with purple ribbons in her hair, before painting the canvas over with an unadorned brunette.

Matthias Alfeld, who presented his find on March 29 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, said altering the original version of a painting, a practice known as pentimenti from the Italian pentirsi, to repent, is not uncommon.

This particular instance of “the artist’s regret” was revealed by a technique known as scanning macro-X-ray fluorescence at DESY, the German accelerator laboratory in Hamburg.

Stimulated by an X-ray beam, chemical elements in the painting fluoresce, revealing hidden pigments without damaging the artwork.

The analysis revealed that the painting, now known as ‘Pauline in a white dress’, emerged after substantial changes.

The presence of cobalt indicated that blue pigment was used in the woman’s purple hair ribbons, and the orange-red pigment vermilion was indicated by mercury.

The presence and distribution of antimony, which is associated with the pigment Naples yellow, and lead, indicating white paint, suggest that the woman initially had blond curls that tumbled loosely over her shoulders, contrasting sharply with the tidy brown pulled-back hair of the visible work.

“This suggests that the artist regretted it and made it more modest,” Discovery News quoted Alfeld, of the University of Antwerp in Belgium, as saying.

The painting is attributed to the romantic German painter Philipp Otto Runge and is presumed to be of his wife Pauline. But many scholars dispute that attribution. (ANI)

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