© Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
© Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

New Technology Reveals Secrets Behind Famous Paintings

An innovative scanning system is making it easier to find the hidden stories behind artworks.

Researchers in the U.S. have started using a new scanning technique, which helped them discover a painting underneath one of Pablo Picasso’s great works of art, the Crouching Woman (La Misereuse Accroupie). By using the new scanning system, the researchers found that underneath the oil painting is a landscape of Barcelona. It turns out that Picasso used this as the basis to his masterpiece. The new scanning system uses x-ray fluorescence and is cheaper than alternative art scanning systems. It is also portable, so it can be used by any gallery that wants it. Researchers discussed their findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas. The Crouching Woman is a painting from Picasso’s blue period, but the landscape painting underneath it is turned 90 degrees. The outline of the hills in the background becomes the crouching woman’s back, and then she takes on the form and shape of the Catalan countryside. Francesca Casadio, from the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts in Chicago, who is among those leading the project, has high hopes that the more galleries will use the scanners, which will help increase our understanding of artists, their thought processes and the way they worked.

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