Conservators have been using infrared, or IR, cameras to examine and document artwork since the late 1960s. "But these cameras can cost upwards of $100,000, so the number of paintings studied by this technique has been extremely limited," said UA optical sciences and physics Professor Charles M. Falco.
‘The technique is based on the fact that many common pigments are partially transparent to infrared light, making it possible to use appropriate infrared sensors to capture important information from surfaces that are covered by layers of paint," he said.
Early last year, Falco – an experimental physicist who has been interested in photography and in art since childhood – had an idea that he thought might work.
– of works of art.
Falco bought a one-generation-old Canon 30D camera on eBay.
Then he began visiting museums to photograph art.
In a little over a year, Falco has tested his system under a variety of conditions in a dozen museums on three continents, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the National Museum of Western Art in Toyko, Japan.The first paintings Falco studied were in the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Among these works is a painting titled "The Man of Sorrows with Saints and Donors." It was painted by an unknown French artist, probably sometime between the years
1525 and 1550."My camera let me discover something about that painting that nobody knew existed - that there are guide lines under the paint that the artist used to create the pedestal in perfect perspective," Falco said.
"These lines reveal that this Early Renaissance artist understood and based his drawing on the constructed laws of perspective."
Next, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Falco had the chance to test his camera on the same three paintings that conservators had recently analyzed using a $100,000 IR camera.
"They were thrilled because for one of the paintings, I captured essentially all the information the expensive camera did, and for the other two paintings, I captured between half and two-thirds of the information that the expensive camera did," Falco said.
Falco's converted camera, including its 35mm f/2 lens purchased for less than $250, cost about $2,000 total.
"So you can have at least half the information about these artworks that is revealed in the IR for $2,000, versus having no information at all because you can't afford the $100,000 camera," he said.
On his visit to Japan's National Museum of Western Art last December, Falco photographed about 100 artworks that interested him in less than two hours.
"I just walk up to a wall where the painting is on exhibit and take its picture. Even in subdued museum lighting, I can handhold the camera to get a good IR image at 1/30 of a second."
He added, "I probably now have more IR reflectograms in my computer than have been taken in total during the entirety of the last 40 years."
Editors of the "Review of Scientific Instruments" invited Falco to write a technical description of his high-resolution imaging instrument and published the paper as the cover story of their July 2009 issue. The paper, titled "High resolution digital camera for infrared reflectography" is published online.
Falco will give invited lectures on the camera and its applications at the University of Washington in January, at an international conference on digital image processing in Singapore in February and at the meeting of the American Physical Society in Portland, Ore., in March.
Falco's work is based on a collaboration with the artist David Hockney and on image analysis research funded by the Army Research Office.CONTACT:
Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences